Mental Health and Wellbeing Interventions in Sport: A Review and Recommendations

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While participation in sport can have positive physical and mental health benefits, evidence suggests that, particular aspects of competitive sport may also, paradoxically, contribute to deterioration in mental health. 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.
In response to this uncertainty, a review of mental health and wellbeing awareness programmes in sport was undertaken in order to provide direction to the Strategy Steering Group for Mental Health and Wellbeing In and Through Sport on how best to engage the sporting community.

• To identify and examine the effectiveness of international peer reviewed programmes that promote mental health and wellbeing awareness in sport; and
• To review regional mental health and wellbeing policies, strategies and interventions.
To do so, two key phases of the research were completed by the Research Team:
1. A desk-based review using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines; and
2. Focus group discussions and face-to-face interviews with key stakeholders in mental health and wellbeing in Northern Ireland.
The findings from the current review suggest that while knowledge-based mental health programmes in sport settings may improve mental health literacy and reduce stigma, the evidence base is limited.
The interviews and focus group discussions indicated the existence of at least 16 sport- based programmes in Northern Ireland. To our knowledge, these programmes have not been evaluated. Participants also had concerns related to:
• Who should deliver training in clubs?
• The resources available?
• Who should attend training?

Questions were also raised with reference to what would be the specific role of a Club Wellbeing Officer, if established, and whether this was to sign post to already existing services or provide support.
Recommendations include:
• The need to develop a Mental Health and Wellbeing In and Through Sport Strategy / Action Plan and secure resourcing;
• Determining which programmes for mental health and wellbeing awareness are effective and should be introduced in sport settings for coaches, athletes and club members;
• The introduction of a Mental Health and Wellbeing Officer to sport clubs; and
• Integrating mental health and wellbeing within already established networks across sport in Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSport Northern Ireland
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Feb 2017


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