Australian athletes to benefit from mental health initiatives

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The Australian Institute of Sport is launching two mental health initiatives, enhancing its commitment to athlete wellbeing and its leadership role in high performance sport.

The AIS is undertaking a Mental Health Issue and Illness Audit, an anonymous online survey to assess the current mental health and wellbeing of Australia’s elite athlete cohort.

The AIS will also establish a National Mental Health Referral Network, providing high performance athletes with support for assessment and treatment for mental health issues.

The key initiatives stem from the inaugural AIS Athlete and Wellbeing Summit – Beyond the Podium – which brought together sports, athletes and practitioners in June.

AIS Deputy Director for Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement Matti Clements said the mental health initiatives were the first steps in creating a national action plan for athlete wellbeing.

“The AIS Athlete and Wellbeing team has sought input from sports, athletes and the industry, now we’re determined to lead and put recommendations into action,” Clements said.

The AIS is partnering with Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health and the University of Melbourne to conduct the Mental Health Issue and Illness Audit.

Clements said: “Currently the high performance sports sector in Australia has limited information regarding the mental health and wellbeing of its athletes. This survey will help us understand how we can better meet athlete needs and provide best practice guidelines.”

Orygen Director of Research Rosemary Purcell said the project would complement Orygen’s research with professional sporting codes in Australia.

“Our past research in the professional sport sector provided us important information around the pressures and concerns of athletes so this survey with national sporting organisations will offer next-level insights into the mental wellbeing of our high performance athletes,” Purcell said.

The referral network will be first established in Canberra, then subsequently rolled out across the country.

“The National Mental Health Referral Network will enable athletes to receive advice and help when they need it most, or simply to have a trusted, independent person to talk to,” Clements said.

“Professional guidance and counselling is crucial for athlete mental health, and that requires immediate access to committed, high quality mental health practitioners.

“It will offer a network of AIS-endorsed clinical psychologists and psychiatrists that will provide timely assessment and evidence-based treatment services to support and strengthen athlete mental health.”

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