The BAC has marked Mental Health Awareness Week by linking up with the English Institute of Sport (EIS) to facilitate mental health training to its network of Athlete Representatives.
The EIS-delivered training, which has previously been offered to support staff within the high-performance system, has three main aims: to develop confidence in speaking about mental health; to help athletes understand the importance of self-care and how to support others; and to identify best practice in response to real life concerns.
In total, 18 Athlete Representatives – athletes supported by the BAC to facilitate positive, athlete-led change within their individual sports – took part in the two sessions, including triathlon’s Sam Dickinson.
“As soon as this opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance, and I found it a really, really useful session.
“For me, what stood out the most was how to talk to people who are brave enough to say that they’re struggling. It’s the phrasing of the questions, and how you talk to people – very subtle changes in your delivery can make a big difference to how your words are perceived and lead to a more positive conversation.”
Modern pentathlon’s Joanna Muir also took part, and said:
“Mental health training has never been more important. With the effects of the pandemic really taking their toll on elite athletes, and the pressures of high-level sport in general, athletes are among those at risk of struggling to cope with mental health problems.
“That is why strategies need to be in place to allow coaches, support staff and other athletes to pick up on any changes within individuals, and to understand how to help them when the stress gets too much. I found the training really useful, and I look forward to putting what I learnt into practice and hopefully being able to help my team-mates in the future.”
Kristian Thomas, the BAC’s Athlete Engagement Manager, added:
“The EIS do great work regarding mental health within the system, and it has been a long-term goal of ours to ensure that their expertise can be passed directly to Athlete Representatives, equipping them with the confidence and the skills to engage with their peers on the subject, and giving athletes another place to turn if they experience any mental health problems.
“We are looking to work closely with the EIS to continue to roll these sessions out to more of the athlete community, as we jointly look to further strengthen the support network that exists for our athletes.”
Darryl Coakley, Mental Health Officer at the EIS, delivered the training, and said:
“It is so important to encourage conversation around mental health and self-care and we are really pleased to have been able to deliver these sessions in partnership with the BAC.
“In an Olympic and Paralympic year, athletes may be feeling a wide range of emotions and I hope the insight we shared was helpful and reassuring in their preparation for the Games and future athletic careers.”
You can find out more about Athlete Representation here, and further details on the BAC’s mental health support provision here.