(3 min read)
Sport has been in the spotlight in recent years regarding the growing demand to support the mental/emotional side of athletes. HONE takes a look the big events of 2022 in our collective progress toward better athlete mental health AND the one "watch out" we would issue to sport leaders as we developing programming solutions.
Just as every company does in December, we’re taking a retrospective of 2022. The “greatest hits” for mental health in sport over the past year, if you will.
What is the common theme that came forward for athlete mental health in the past 12 months? ACTION.
At HONE we’ve been preaching for years now that it’s time to shift the attention from awareness activities into forward motion; it’s time to take action. And not a moment too soon; an NCAA study revealed that their student athletes were reporting mental health concerns at 1.5 to 2 times higher than before the pandemic.
"...it’s time to take action. And not a moment too soon; an NCAA study revealed that their student athletes were reporting mental health concerns at 1.5 to 2 times higher than before the pandemic."
From within that concerning context, it has been very rewarding to watch the list of forward-moving organizations grow as they unveiled their own programs and efforts to support the mental health and well-being of their athletes.
Some of the notable announcements that came out this year:
- The NCAA hosted the very first meeting of its newly appointed Mental Health Advisory group in October of 2022. The advisory group is tasked with reviewing and recommending updates to the NCAA's Mental Health Best Practices. Furthermore, it was revealed that the new NCAA constitution mandates every member school works to foster “an environment that reinforces physical and mental health.”
- Tennis Canada launched their “Mental Time Out” project this summer with a dual effort to create mental health-friendly sporting environments and pledging access to individual support for those athletes who require it.
- The NFLPA’s Professional Athletes Foundation (PAF) announced a unique program to fund and extend access to mental health support to its retired player community.
- USA Gymnastics announced that, through a partnership with GK Elite, they will fund mental health sessions for their National team, both for athletes AND coaches.
- Coaching Association of Canada just announced an extensive effort to update and expand on their mental health resources for coaches via a $2.8 million dollar investment from the Government of Canada. The stated objective of the investment is to extend accessibility of the resources into new remote areas and additional languages, create a central resource hub and promote those resources across Canada.
- International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched the IOC Olympians Health Cohort, a new long-term research project aimed at “reducing injuries and illnesses for elite athletes, and protecting their physical and mental health.” Researchers will follow up with their subjects every two years over the course of 15-20 years with the goal of filling in knowledge gaps on how physical and mental health shifts over the course of one’s career.
What does all this recent activity mean for athlete mental health overall?
It is always positive when change is initiated. We applaud each and every team, association and sport organization who takes steps to fill gaps in the support for their athletes.
If we at HONE were to issue a “but” or "watch out" to moderate some of this good news, it would be this:
Don’t get too caught up in the narrow focus on support for the individual in the crisis moment. It’s been the dominant way of thinking about mental health for a long time, not just in sport but in the general population as well.
The missing piece in many of the programs being launched is a complementary look at the team environment IN ADDITION to the access to individual therapy. By empowering and educating coaches on their role in the development of their athletes’ mental well-being, we can create sporting cultures that are open and supportive of the ups and downs that come with being a human in sport.
"...The missing piece in many of the programs being launched is a complementary look at the team environment IN ADDITION to the access to individual therapy.
The culture approach becomes the most meaningful way to create sustainable change as we are able to work proactively ahead of the stressors taking root and impacting the individual.
HONE’s parting thoughts for 2022.
Since our inception in 2020, there’s been a steady growth in the readiness to tackle the topic of athlete mental health and we’ve felt incredibly lucky to be present for this moment in time. We’re excited to continue growing with our HONE community of forward-thinking coaches and sport leaders who are leading the movement towards better mental health in sport.
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