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Mental Health support in high performance sport

Lucy Lomax | 10 May 2019

The High Performance System is a unique environment, one which makes significant demands on all those who work and train in it.

Support and help is available to sportspeople that experience mental health issues through the EIS or their national governing body.

Mental Health is a society-wide issue and is rightly receiving more attention. One in four people will experience some kind of mental health issue during their life (source: MIND).

Positive Mental Health
Is a state of wellbeing in which every individual (athlete and staff member) realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can perform productively, and is able to make a contribution to her or his (sporting) community.

Mental health problem
A pattern of behaviour, experiences, thoughts and feelings that causes significant distress and/or impairment of daily functioning and/or difficulties in relationships with others. Such distress or impairments are most likely to be experienced over a period of time and are not easily alleviated by an individual’s typical coping strategies.

In October 2018, a Mental Health Strategy for the High Performance System was launched.

For Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, the EIS and UK Sport, announced a programme of mental health education to support athletes and promote positive mental health across the UK’s high performance system. Watch the video which UK Sport produced for Mental Health Awareness Week below.

What support is available?
The EIS has been delivering expertise around mental health for many years. Trained doctors, supported by performance psychologists and performance lifestyle advisors are at the forefront of delivering support.

There is significant support available to athletes on World Class Programmes across the High Performance System.

The desire to help athletes be successful should never come at the cost of damaging their long-term health and wellbeing.

If you’re an athlete reading this and wish to receive help, please speak confidentially to a doctor (either EIS or NGB employed) or a practitioner you know – it is vital you speak to someone.

Mental health charity MIND have produced assistance for those seeking help for a mental health problem.

EIS doctors, performance psychologists and performance lifestyle advisors have all had training in detecting early signs for mental health problems.

Following consultation, EIS and NGB doctors can refer athletes for support at the Priory Hospital, while there’s also significant support available within the EIS.

Psychologists provide a range of services to help athletes prepare psychologically for the demands of training and competition; rather than wait for problems to occur, this service is focused on equipping athletes with the capabilities to enable these challenges

While, performance lifestyle advisors help and support athletes across all elements of their life – ranging from moving homes and planning for a career and life after elite sport, enabling an athlete’s sporting and non-sporting lives to work together.

Former England and Great Britain hockey player Helen Richardson-Walsh has spoken openly about her mental health problems and how she received help from the EIS to overcome them.


During Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, the EIS spoke to numerous athletes and coaches around what they do to maintain positive mental health in their lives and how mental health is just as important as physical health. View the videos from the week below.

MIND, the mental health charity, believe that no one should have to face a mental health problem alone.