Mental Health and Wellbeing support vital in helping our athletes compete with the best

By Sarah Cecil | 14/05/2017

Sarah Cecil is a Lead Sports Psychologist and the EIS Lead on Mental Health 

Events have taken place this week to mark Mental Health Awareness Week – an annual opportunity to focus on mental health education, awareness and advocacy.

At the English Institute of Sport (EIS), the mental health and wellbeing care services we provide to elite athletes are increasingly important.

We think of ourselves as “the team behind the team” at the EIS and aim to provide sports, coaches and athletes with the best package of support, delivered by the best people in the best possible environment. Our job is to increase the probability of an athlete being successful through the delivery of science, medicine, technology and engineering.

Alongside UK Sport and our other partners, we have ensured that the high performance system is better equipped than ever to provide these services to the top athletes in the country as they look to achieve medal success on the world stage.

However, our work is far from done and we remain hugely committed to developing these services further as we head into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic cycle.

The EIS primary care services include the day-to-day work of our practitioners and doctors. As part of the widespread support we provide to athletes the EIS has developed a Mental Health Referral Programme (MHRP). This provides access to secondary care services for elite athletes who can be referred by our doctors to specialist psychiatric and clinical psychology support services to address a range of mental health and wellbeing issues such as depression, stress, anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and addictions.

Early interventions and preventative measures have also been developed to enable EIS practitioners that work on a daily basis with athletes to provide support on mental health issues, with many practitioners trained in Mental Health First aid.

Mental preparation has become a key priority for elite athletes alongside physical training. Of course the responsibility for identifying and raising mental health concerns does not lie solely with doctors and psychologists so the EIS has put in place a range of measures to enables all of its practitioners (particularly nutritionists, physiotherapists and performance lifestyle advisors) to be better equipped to identify and act upon concerns in this area, including the development of guiding principles for EIS practitioners on Mental Health.

By providing a range of services, the EIS aims to enable the whole high performance system to be better equipped to deal with mental health and wellbeing issues and develop a coherent system and approach addressing the issues that arise and provide necessary and appropriate support to elite athletes.

We believe this vital support will play a major role in helping our athletes compete with the world’s best and hopefully come out on top in the big moments so that they can stand proudly on top of the podium when the medals are handed out.