A Review of Mental Health and Wellbeing Awareness Programmes in Sport

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


Participation in sport can have positive physical, emotional and psychosocial health benefits. However, emerging evidence suggests that being part of competitive sport may contribute to poor mental health and may lead to specific stressors that hinder athletes’ mental health optimisation. The sport setting lends itself to the communication of positive mental health and wellbeing messages, yet the best way of achieving the delivery of these messages remains uncertain. Responding to this uncertainty, on how best to engage the sporting community, a review of mental health and wellbeing awareness programmes in sport was undertaken to provide direction to the Strategic Steering Group for Mental Health and Wellbeing in and through Sport. The review identified two objectives: 1. The need for a systematic analysis of peer reviewed programmes across the world which promote mental health and wellbeing awareness in sport, and2. To review regional mental health and wellbeing policies, strategies and interventions. The first objective was met through a desk based review using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. The second objective was also achieved and consisted of twenty-six interviews/focus group discussions with mental health and wellbeing stakeholders in Northern Ireland, analysed using general inductive analysis.The findings from the systematic review highlighted a lack of methodological rigour in the evaluation of programmes applied in sport settings to either increase mental health literacy, help seeking, mental health and wellbeing, or to reduce stigma.The results from the interview/focus group discussions revealed 16 programmes were available in Northern Ireland in sport settings with this figure anticipated to be higher. The level of the evaluation and impact of the programmes was not apparent. Those interviewed highlighted the further need to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing through sport, to develop appropriate training routes for coaches and athletes, to tailor programmes to clubs when appropriate, and use existing well established sports clubs and governing body networks for delivery of mental health and wellbeing programmes. To aid the delivery of programmes, a strategy on the development of mental health and wellbeing in and through sport was welcomed, as was a framework for evaluation. Despite the positive views of those interviewed, knowledge and awareness of mental health and wellbeing was low for a minority of those interviewed. There was uncertainty over who should deliver training in clubs, the resources available and who should attend training. Questions were also raised with reference to what would be the specific role of the club/wellbeing officer if put in place, whether this was to sign post to already existing services or provide support. Finally, there are several recommendations made to aid the development of a new strategy for mental health and wellbeing in and through sport in Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUnknown Publisher
Number of pages51
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Aug 2016


  • Wellbeing
  • welfare
  • athletes
  • coaches
  • mental health
  • public health
  • community

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