"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

It's not only retired athletes who need mental health help – young athletes need it too.

Retirement from skilled sports May be annoying for some players..

High profile athletes in Australia eg Brandon Cannon, Nathan Bracken, Stephanie Rice and Lauren Jackson Discusses identity, purpose and future goals, in addition to depression and suicidal thoughts after retirement.

More recently, the death of former Australian Football League (AFL) player Cam McCarthy – Joe Cope with mental health issues. During their careers – retirement brought calls for more support for athletes, including from Fremantle coach Justin Longmire.

Meanwhile, former St Kilda footballer Sam Fisher was sentenced. For drug offences It has led to similar conversations about “life after footy”, as has change into a go-to phrase for headline writers.

These discussions about mental health challenges at the top of an athletic profession are necessary — but one piece of the puzzle is missing.

Player identity risk

Reaching and maintaining peak performance as an athlete requires immense dedication and discipline.

As a result, Athletes' identity is often closely tied to their status as sportspeople.. This implies that when something disrupts their ability to play, similar to injury or retirement, Serious mental health problems can follow.

Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou's powerful message about players' mental health.

The excellent news is that sports organizations are increasingly investing in retirement transition programs that support athletes' mental health during and after the top of their careers.

The programs are generally aimed toward encouraging players to construct a greater identity, consider future careers and seek help when needed.

Such programs are currently being provided by AFL, Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) And National Rugby LeagueAmong others.

This investment is encouraging. These programs can play a very important role in stopping and responding to serious mental health problems in retired athletes.

But more must be done to support the mental health of athletes early of their careers.

The importance of early intervention

As with all diseases, early intervention is essential. Taking precautions for mental health It is necessary To construct flexibility and forestall symptoms from becoming severe.

Greater attention must be paid to the prevention and early intervention of mental health problems in elite sports.

Elite athletes are sometimes exposed to significant pressures and responsibilities from an early age. For example, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics featured athletes like Skye Brown, who competed in skateboarding and Won a bronze medal at the age of just 13..

Importantly, athletes are most liable to developing mental health problems once they enter elite sport settings. 75% of these problems develop before the age of 24..

In addition, the pressures young athletes face – pressure to perform, high training loads, demanding lifestyle demands and public and media scrutiny – coexist with the common challenges of adolescence: academic achievement. , increasing independence from caregivers, developing a way of identity and navigating peers. Relationships and early romantic relationships.

This is clearly quite a bit for young people to administer.

And yet, little emphasis has been placed on promoting athletes' mental health during this transition.

Importantly, these efforts must begin with players entering high-performance systems somewhat than late of their careers.

What more will be done?

On our research team Origen – A youth mental health organization – a recently developed one A framework for promoting mental health during the transition to elite sport. It highlights ways that individuals in sport settings (similar to coaches, teammates and staff) can support an athlete's mental health and well-being.

One really useful strategy is to be sure that players understand the important thing challenges they could face throughout their careers. This will be achieved by helping them develop healthy strategies to beat these challenges.

Throughout the game system, there may be a must be sure that all athletes are valued as people – not only athletes. This requires constructing meaningful relationships in sport and preparing athletes for all times beyond their athletic careers.

It is very important that mental health support opportunities are provided recurrently. Athletes must know that getting help is a component of it. Maintaining optimal health And It can even support performance.

Sports organizations are starting to make inroads into this area. For example, the AFL provides A Curriculum for All Talent Pathways Players on mental health literacy, resilience, stress management and coping, and skills to contribute to a protected and inclusive team culture.

Similarly, d AIS's Start Strong program Offers online learning that gives athletes and their parents with necessary details about Australia's high-performance sports system and topics similar to personal values ​​and overcoming obstacles.

others, such as the Australian Cricketers' Associationhas begun offering support for alternative education and profession paths early in a player's profession, to make sure they've options after retirement.

Next steps for every

This investment is the best way forward but we'd like to go further with stopping mental health problems from the beginning, ensuring that athletes are in a position to fulfill their roles physically and mentally throughout their lives and have the health Be prepared in the most effective possible approach to live a healthy life.

And perhaps the remainder of us – including sports fans and the media – can use recent events and this Olympic and Paralympic 12 months to do not forget that athletes are sometimes at a critical stage in life developmentally.