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UK Sport strengthens mental health support for elite sport – appoints special panel and first mental health lead

By Tom Walker    11 Dec 2018
UK Sport has appointed an Expert Mental Health panel, which will advise the high-performance system over the coming years

UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS) have made a number of appointments to strengthen the mental health support system within the UK's high performance system.

Dr James Bell, a performance psychologist who's worked with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Rugby Football Union, has been appointed head of mental health at the EIS – alongside his existing duties as head of culture at UK Sport.

His appointment is accompanied by the appointment of an Expert Mental Health panel, which will advise the high performance system over the coming years.

Believed to be unique for any world class programmes, the panel consists of four mental health professionals and is part of measures to help top British athletes deal with mental health issues.

Professor Alan Currie, is chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Sports and Exercise Psychiatry Special Interest Group (SEPSIG) and a member of the International Society for Sport Psychiatry (ISSP). Doctor Allan Johnston is a trustee to the State of Mind sports charity and was employed as rugby league’s first sports psychiatrist by the Bradford Bulls RLFC.

Clinical psychologist, Doctor Amanda Gatherer has extensive experience with elite athletes through her previous consultancy work with the ECB and the EIS and doctor Steve Peters is renowned for his work in elite and professional sport.

The appointments are part of the Mental Health Strategy, developed by the Mental Health Steering Group which includes representation from UK Sport, EIS, the British Athletes Commission (BAC), World Class Programmes, industry and the mental health charity MIND.

The strategy is designed to promote a sustainable high performance system where all people have the best opportunity to have positive mental health and ensure there is appropriate support for those experiencing mental health problems.

Speaking about his new role, Dr James Bell said: "Positive strides have already been made within this area, and alongside the appointment of the expert mental health panel, I'm excited to be part of a system that puts the mental health of the athletes and staff at the heart of our culture.

It is critical that we take a leading role in the education, support and provision allocated to mental health in elite sport in the UK.”

Chelsea Warr, UK Sport's director of performance, added: “Supporting our nation’s most promising athletes both physical and mental health is of paramount importance.

"The development and delivery of UK Sport’s/EIS’s Mental Health Strategy, alongside our other Home Country Sport Institutes, will support sports in dealing with complex mental health cases via access to world class experts who have an affinity with High Performance operating environments.

“The strategy will also focus on supporting sports to develop proactive and positive mental health environments that enable athletes and support teams to thrive.

"The Strategy will play a significant role in ensuring the GB High Performance system remains future focussed, responsible and responsive to today’s and tomorrow’s opportunities for continual improvement”.

English Institute of Sport  UK Sport 
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