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Mental health in sport

One way of thinking about mental health is as a continuum where mental wellbeing (positive mental health) is at one end of the continuum and people can move through from being stressed and under pressure, to struggling and doing it tough, to experiencing mental ill health and high levels of mental and emotional distress.

Following the Olympics over the last couple of weeks, you would have seen plenty of coverage focusing on the mental health of elite athletes.

Liz Cambage withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics off the back of concerns for her mental health. Shortly after, Simone Biles from the USA gymnastics team withdraw mid-competition citing similar concerns.

The openness from athletes, on the world stage, to discuss their mental health concerns in these situations should be commended and, as leaders in our community, they should be congratulated for showing the courage to do so.

When it comes to community sport understanding mental health is vitally important.

Over the past six months, SportWest has worked with the Mental Health Commission, the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, the WA Association for Mental Health, Healthway and the WA Local Government Association to gain a thorough understanding of the challenges faced by community clubs when it comes to mental health.

This has involved countless hours of interviews with club administrators and mental health service providers.

Four key areas have emerged where clubs require support:

  1. Creating a club culture and environment that is inclusive of all people and promotes mental health and wellbeing of those involved
  2. Increasing mental health awareness and literacy so clubs know how to respond and encourage links with local services
  3. Ensuring links with local mental health support services
  4. Responding to critical mental health incidents/events


We are in the final stages of completing the recommendations and guiding principles from this project.

It’s anticipated the report will be released in the coming months and we look forward to working with the sporting community and mental health industry to ensure that sport continues to lead the way in improving mental health outcomes for the community.

In many situations, sporting clubs are at the frontline of tackling mental health concerns and as such we recognise the need to provide support in this area.

To all those athletes, and people in the community, that are destigmatising mental health by talking about it, we applaud you!

Lifeline: 13 11 14

By. Matt Fulton, Chief Executive Officer, Sport West

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