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Development and Implementation of the National Mental Health Referral Network for Elite Athletes: A Case Study of the Australian Institute of Sport

Simon Rice, Matt Butterworth, Matti Clements, Daniel Josifovski, Sharyn Arnold, Cecily Schwab, Kerryn Pennell, and Rosemary Purcell

Awareness-raising and antistigma campaigns have sought to increase the acceptance of mental ill health across the general community and subpopulations of elite athletes. Nonetheless, gaps remain for models of clinical service provision. As cultural change prompts elite athletes toward more open and positive perceptions of help seeking, the number of athletes seeking evidence-based mental health intervention has been predicted to increase. In this context, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) established the national Mental Health Referral Network. The network comprises registered mental health professionals (psychologists) and is led by the AIS Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement branch. This case study describes the development and implementation of this network, including the service-provider procurement process and strategic consultation provided by Orygen. Details are provided for international bodies seeking to undertake similar initiatives. Reflections on program implementation highlight opportunities for expansion and data capture, informing future education-based initiatives.

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Supporting Mental Health in Youth Sport: Introducing a Toolkit for Coaches, Clubs, and Organisations

Courtney C. Walton, Serena Carberry, Michael Wilson, Rosemary Purcell, Lisa Olive, Stewart Vella, and Simon Rice

The mental health of young people is of increasing concern, and early intervention prevention strategies are required. Youth sports are potentially effective environments within which to situate interventions due to high participation rates, familiarity to young participants, and the typically positive relationships held with adults within such spaces. However, coaches identify that they require more knowledge to better respond to mental health concerns that may be present among players. Here, we describe a research translation process in which an open-access, evidence-informed resource was developed to support coaches and sports clubs to better respond to athletes in need as well as to create environments that may protect against mental ill-health and promote well-being. The resource includes a toolkit—with an associated checklist—for recreational sport clubs to follow, a guide to responding to young people in need, and a short educational video. We suggest that these practical and applied resources, which can be immediately implemented, may assist in the provision of targeted and structured guidance for coaches’ first response intervention with vulnerable young people. Furthermore, these resources can support future efforts by being specifically tailored for the unique locations and cultures that vary among youth sport environments.

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Self-Compassionate Motivation and Athlete Well-Being: The Critical Role of Distress Tolerance

Courtney C. Walton, Kelsey J. Lewis, James Kirby, Rosemary Purcell, Simon M. Rice, and Margaret S. Osborne

This cross-sectional study explored athlete responses to the Compassion Motivation and Action Scales Self-Compassion Scale, examining its relationship with well-being. Athlete (N = 207; mean age 27.9 years) scores were consistent with previous population means. Scores on the Compassion Motivation and Action Scales Self-Compassion Scale did not differ between elite and nonelite athletes, nor did they correlate significantly with trait competitiveness. Significant differences emerged based on athlete well-being state, with athletes categorized as “flourishing” scoring higher on the total score and all subscales of the Compassion Motivation and Action Scales Self-Compassion Scale, as compared with those with “moderate mental health” (Cohen’s ds from 0.58 to 0.92). Furthermore, the distress tolerance subscale significantly mediated the relationship between self-compassion intentions and well-being (indirect path: B = 0.034, p < .001). The results suggest that self-compassionate intentions are not enough, and athletes may need support to tolerate the distress that comes with moving toward one’s own suffering.