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SportWest Mental Health Project

It’s Mental Health Week (10-17 October) in Western Australia, and the theme is Strengthening Our Community – Live, Learn, Work, Play as we aim to increase mental wellbeing in Western Australian communities.

The promotion of positive mental health and wellbeing is a key focus of our partnership work. In July 2020, Healthway, in partnership with VicHealth, funded researchers at Monash University to explore key elements of a best practice mental health in sport program, and to understand what programs are currently offered in WA.

Thank you to the community sporting associations, clubs, coaches, administrators, and volunteers who participated in this mapping research so that we could gain a better understanding of current mental health activities in community sport across WA. 175 survey responses were received, and 12 interviews undertaken during August 2020. A rapid literature review was also conducted to establish essential criteria for best-practice mental health initiatives in community sport.

The findings from the research are outlined below.


Overall findings

The literature review indicated that best practice mental health programs in sport are those that:

  • Align with a mental health framework or strategy
  • Can be delivered through various methods (e.g. face to face and online)
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the sport setting
  • Are well evaluated or assessed against a set criteria
  • Can be delivered sustainably
  • Provide ongoing support.


Sport sector findings 

Survey findings from sport sector indicate that:

  • Sport offers a trusted community network for sustaining mental health and wellbeing
  • With the right resourcing and support, the WA sport sector could deliver comprehensive programs such as those offered in schools or workplaces
  • Peak sporting bodies can play a role in leading the approach to mental health activities in the sector
  • Comprehensive evidence-based and evidence-informed programs are most effective
  • There is an opportunity to develop a system to connect sporting organisations with quality mental health promotion providers
  • There are opportunities for the sport sector to better understand the cultural considerations of mental health and wellbeing in Aboriginal and remote communities.


 Mental health providers

There has been significant growth in the number of mental programs aiming to work within the sporting sector in Western Australia. Key findings include:

  • Currently there are at least 13 initiatives that deliver mental health related content to community sporting clubs and another 30 initiatives, many of which are part of initiatives by national sporting bodies, that may have some relevance to mental health and community sport in WA.
  • These programs operate in a largely unregulated environment and without guidelines
  • There is an opportunity to better connect the different program providers and the community sport sector.


Opportunities and next steps

These findings provide a sound foundation on how community sport can play an important role in improving mental health and wellbeing in the WA community.

Healthway has now funded a partnership project between SportWest, the WA Association for Mental Health, and the Mental Health Commission, to use these findings to develop a framework and resources to guide and strengthen mental health activities across community sport in WA.

We will seek sports involvement in the coming weeks and continue to keep you informed as the project progresses. For more information please contact Brianne James by phone 133 777 or email Brianne.James@healthway.wa.gov.au.

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