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UK Sport's mental health programme to support 'every athlete'

By Tom Walker    14 May 2019
The programme will be delivered through a series of workshops, in conjunction with applied psychologists from Changing Minds UK
High-performance sport is a world which can place unique demands upon people
– Dame Katherine Grainger

Elite agency UK Sport has launched a mental health education programme aimed at supporting every athlete across the UK’s high-performance system.

Operated in partnership with the English Institute of Sport (EIS), the initiative will be delivered to all 43 UK Sport-funded sports and aims to reach all 1,200 athletes on world-class programmes.

Promoting positive mental health will be at the core of the scheme, which looks to activate coaches and support staff and encourage them to develop self-care strategies in the run-up to Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The programme will be delivered through a series of workshops, in conjunction with applied psychologists from Changing Minds UK.

The workshops will share best practice developed by EIS psychologists and performance lifestyle advisors. The workshops will include advice on how coaches and performance directors can promote and facilitate positive mental health on their programmes and provide advice and guidance on techniques and strategies to enable people to maximise their wellbeing.

The workshops will also reflect the individual characteristics of the sport they are targeting.

“High-performance sport is a world which can place unique demands upon people," said Dame Katherine Grainger, Chair of UK Sport.

"It’s essential we all do as much as we can to support athletes, coaches and support staff, helping to create an environment that promotes and facilitates positive mental health.

“Mental health matters to everyone and from my own experience I’m aware that as an athlete your overwhelming goal is to be the best athlete you can possibly be and to do that you must be able to develop as a person and be happy and supported in that world. It is important to have structures in place to encourage people’s personal development as well as their personal progress.”

Dr James Bell, UK Sport's head of mental health, added: "The importance of mental health is now much more widely recognised in elite sport, yet much of the conversation about it still tends to focus on mental health as an issue or a problem.

"These new measures are designed to encourage sports and athletes to talk more openly about the subject and to also consider the importance of positive mental health in their everyday life as well as their sporting life.

“Mental health is as important as physical health, so in the same way that athletes take steps to optimise their physical health and prevent injuries and illnesses, we are also trying to encourage them to think about ways in which they can maximise their mental health.

“The education programme encourages athletes to consider factors that influence their mental health and think about strategies to promote positive mental health in an elite sport environment. This applies not just to athletes but also for the coaches and support staff that work incredibly hard to support them.”

The launch of the programme follows the recent establishment of an expert panel to support the provision of mental health services to elite athletes.

Made up of specialist clinical psychologists and sports psychiatrists, the panel will provide advice on complex, challenging cases and are able to call-upon specialists with niche expertise to guide the treatment of particular conditions.

The announcement also coincides with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, which is taking place between 13 and 19 May 2019.

For more information on Mental Health Week,

click here for the campaign website:

• To read an article in which experts discuss mental health first aid in sport and fitness, click here for HCM magazine Issue 5.

English Institute of Sport  EIS  UK Sport  Changing Minds UK  Katherine Grainger  James Bell  Mental health 
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