WHY WE EXIST
There are several reasons why we created the CCMHS. No one is immune to mental health challenges and mental illness, including athletes and coaches. Below are reality checks that have led us to go beyond mental health TALK and bring about mental health ACTION. The CCMHS has as its mandate to provide high quality, evidence-based, and timely services and resources to athletes and coaches in a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment.
Mental health is necessary to sustain optimal performance in sport.
REALITY CHECK #1
Mental health is necessary to sustain optimal performance in sport. It influences athletes’ and coaches' daily functioning, including their ability to effectively manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to successfully execute tasks, meet performance goals, maintain healthy relationships, and meaningfully contribute to their sport community.
Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness.
REALITY CHECK #2
Mental health reflects more than simply the absence of mental illness. For example, athletes and coaches who do not have a mental illness do not necessarily experience high well-being. Conversely, athletes and coaches who have a mental illness do not inevitably experience low well-being. With adequate support and skills, athletes and coaches can optimally function and thrive in sport, regardless of whether or not they have a mental illness.
Mental health affects everyone, including athletes and coaches.
REALITY CHECK #3
Mental health affects everyone, and athletes and coaches are not immune to this. In Canada, 1 in 5 people experience a major mental illness each year, which costs the Canadian health care system $50 billion annually. With 7.2 million Canadians regularly engaging in sport, there could be as many as 1.4 million athletes and coaches struggling with mental health challenges each year. We can no longer turn a blind eye to mental health issues in sport.
Athletes and coaches may face more mental health challenges than the general population.
REALITY CHECK #4
Competitive athletes and coaches may be more vulnerable to mental health challenges than the normal population due to the complex demands, high expectations, limited support, early specialization, and year-round training/coaching they often face. Other factors such as excessive pressure to succeed, debilitative coaching styles, lack of funding, overtraining, injury, and difficult transitions in, through, and out of sport can precipitate existing mental health challenges or trigger the development of new ones.
Athletes and coaches have unique needs that cannot be ignored.
REALITY CHECK #5
Competitive sport is associated with unique requirements, including structured training programs, peaking and recovery periods, diets, interdisciplinary teams, cultural systems, and traveling regimens that require nuances in mental health care for athletes and coaches, which are irrelevant in the general population. For instance, certain medications can adversely affect performance. Also, food monitoring behaviours considered pathological in the general population are sometimes necessary in certain sports.
Personal and social barriers OFTEN prevent athletes and coaches from seeking help.
REALITY CHECK #6
The fear of being judged, labelled, devalued, misunderstood, and shunned often prevents athletes and coaches from seeking mental health services. Just as it is normal to get support for physical ailments, getting help for psychological challenges should be praised and valued in sport. We must normalize this because obtaining the right support strengthens athletes' and coaches' ability to optimally function and meet performance and well-being goals.
Sport practitioners are often ON THE FRONT LINES for athletes and coaches in distress.
REALITY CHECK #7
Sport practitioners typically involved in caring for athletes and coaches such as sport medicine doctors, athletic therapists, and physiotherapists are often the first touchpoint for athletes and coaches in distress situations. However, many do not have specialized training to address mental health issues in these situations. Integrated support teams for competitive athletes and coaches must include experts who can address mental health challenges at any point in time.
There is a lack of specialists who can address athletes' and coaches' mental health challenges.
REALITY CHECK #8
Few psychotherapists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists in Canada specialize in sport. On the other hand, Mental Performance Consultants have knowledge and competencies in the areas of sport, counselling, and psychology, and frequently provide mental training services to athletes to help them improve their performance and daily functioning. However, most of them are not trained as clinicians, and can therefore not diagnose and treat mental illnesses.
The mental health needs of athletes and coaches should be met by a specialized team of practitioners.
REALITY CHECK #9
The mental health needs of competitive athletes and coaches should be addressed by practitioners who have knowledge and competencies in both sport and psychology. A collaborative sport-driven model of mental health care is required. Services provided by a specialized, integrated team will arguably lead to effective and timely mental health care for competitive athletes and coaches, and facilitate their success and long-term participation in sport.