Mental health increasing priority for Australian athletes

Jean Van der Westhuyzen , Australia Mens K1 1,000mtr International Canoe Federation World Championships, Szeged, Hungary. Saturday 24 August 2019 © Copyright photo Steve McArthur / Paddle Australia

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has welcomed new research revealing more Australian high performance athletes are prioritising their mental health.

The AIS Mental Health Audit, run by mental health research institute Orygen, showed 50 per cent of the 305 athletes who took part in the survey sought treatment in 2022, compared to just 39 per cent of participants in 2018.

The biennial survey also showed positive improvement in the mental health and wellbeing of high performance support staff and coaches, with 61 per cent of those who responded sharing that their sport setting is a safe place to disclose mental health problems.

AIS Acting Director Matti Clements said while it’s great to see the stigma of mental health improving across the sector, more support is needed in the prevention space.

“The Australian High Performance Sport system is united in the vision to win well, which means balancing ambitious performance goals with safe, fair and supportive cultures and ensuring that our athletes, coaches, and support staff win in all areas of life.”

“The AIS Mental Health Referral Network is a key part of creating that environment of sustainable success. It has provided free, confidential advice and world-class services to more than 1,300 people since launching in 2018.

“There is still work to be done. The AIS Mental Health Audit showed more than a quarter of the athletes experienced anxiety or depression in 2022 and our priority is to ensure everyone in the high performance sport system receives help when they need it.”

As part of the commitment to improving mental health and wellbeing, the AIS has once again partnered with the Black Dog Institute to run the Mental Fitness Program, an initiative aimed at reducing rates of mental illness among young Australians.

Over the next six months, 22 high performance athletes, including Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games athletes, will become AIS Mental Fitness Ambassadors, sharing their personal stories and mental health strategies with thousands of high school students across the country.

Schools interested in having an AIS Mental Fitness athlete ambassador visit can submit an online request here.

Those wishing to know more about the AIS Mental Health Referral Network can click here.

2023 AIS Mental Fitness Program athlete ambassadors: 

  • Aleisha Power, Hockey Australia, Perth
  • Caitlin Parker, CombatAUS/Boxing Australia, Melbourne
  • David Bryant, Triathlon Australia, Perth
  • Elizabeth Simms, Water Polo Australia, Sydney
  • Ellen Ryan, Bowls Australia, Goulburn
  • Emily Hamilton-Smith, Hockey Australia, Melbourne 
  • Giorgia Patten, Rowing Australia, Sydney
  • Jack Cleary, Rowing Australia, Canberra
  • Jean van der Westhuyzen, Paddle Australia, Gold Coast
  • Laetisha Scanlan, Shooting Australia, Melbourne
  • Lily Alton Triggs, Rowing Australia, Brisbane
  • Matthew Glaetzer, AUSCycling, Adelaide 
  • Mitchell Larkin, Swimming Australia, Brisbane  
  • Nathan Katz, Judo Australia/CombatAUS, Melbourne 
  • Seve de Campo, Snow Australia, Canberra
  • Sian Whittaker, Swimming Australia, Melbourne
  • Sophie Jackson, Australian Sailing, Melbourne 
  • Stefanie Weiler, Volleyball Australia, Adelaide 
  • Tamsin Cook, Swimming Australia, Melbourne 
  • Tegan Reder, Swimming Australia, Perth
  • Zana Evans, Snow Australia, Jindabyne
  • Zoe Vorenas, Equestrian Australia, Melbourne 
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