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Supporting athletes’ mental health on and off the field of play

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Today is World Mental Health Day, an international day to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilise support efforts. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has put tools and initiatives in place to support athletes’ mental health and well-being, including:

  • the IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit,
  • the Mentally Fit Helpline, and
  • the educational, expert-led content available on Athlete365.

Athletes’ mental health has always been a priority for the IOC, and with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 by a year, the challenges of elite athletes were further accentuated. The need to support athletes’ well-being, on and off the field of play, further caught the public’s attention this summer, with the decision by US artistic gymnast Simone Biles to step back from competition to prioritise her mental health at Tokyo 2020.

Simone Biles: “It’s OK to not be OK”

In an exclusive interview published today by Olympics.com, Biles, referring to young women taking part in her “Gold Over America Tour”, said: “I hope they take away that it's OK to not be OK. You can speak up for what you believe, and you can do things alone. Sometimes, it's how you get up and pick yourself back up.”

You can read the full interview with Biles here.

Educational, expert-led content available on Athlete365

Throughout October, Athlete365 – the IOC platform dedicated to the athletes’ community – is taking extra steps to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around athlete mental health with an entire month of articles, interviews and conversations across the platform. This includes the Athlete365 website and its official social media channels.

The campaign builds on existing resources and provides athletes with essential, everyday skills in managing their mental health, particularly in recognising when and how to seek help. There will also be educational content designed specifically for coaches and entourage members on how they can recognise the signs and symptoms that suggest an athlete may be struggling, and their role in offering support.

While this exclusive content will be published throughout October, it will remain on the Athlete365 website for athletes, coaches and entourage members to refer to and access at any time. What’s more, the #MentallyFit page – which was promoted across the Olympic Village at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – already features a whole host of resources and expert advice that can be accessed now.

To Register to Athlete365 and become a member of the world’s largest elite athlete and entourage community, please click here.

IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit

Launched in spring 2021 as part of the practical implementation of Recommendation 5 of Olympic Agenda 2020+5, the IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit has been designed to assist Olympic Movement stakeholders in developing and implementing initiatives related to the protection and promotion of mental health and well-being among elite athletes.

The Toolkit, a joint initiative by the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission and the IOC Athletes’ and Athletes’ Entourage commissions, which was developed in collaboration with the IOC Mental Health Working Group, provides an overview of mental health symptoms and disorders commonly seen in elite athletes, and the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholder groups in creating psychologically safe athletic environments. It also offers additional relevant IOC resources, information and educational programmes.

The IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit can be downloaded here.

The Mentally Fit Helpline

Introduced for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, as well as the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, the Mentally Fit Helpline is a dedicated 24-hour service offering mental health and well-being support to competing athletes. It is staffed by expert counsellors and available in over 70 languages.

Athletes who attended Tokyo 2020 were eligible to receive six free counselling sessions for up to three months post-competition. This helpline will remain in place for Olympic and Paralympic athletes competing at Beijing 2022.

For more information on the Mentally Fit Helpline, visit Athlete365.

IOC World Conference on Prevention of Injury & Illness in Sport

The prevention of mental health issues among elite athletes will also be on the agenda of the IOC World Conference on Prevention of Injury & Illness in Sport, which will be held in Monaco on 25-27 November 2021.

The conference will present evidence-based information on methods to prevent injuries, illness and other health problems associated with sports participation, from a multidisciplinary perspective.

The original article can be found here.

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