Meeting on Mental Health in Elite Sport
On October 10th, in the light of the WHO’s World Mental Health Day, the European Parliament’s Sport Intergroup hosted a Breakfast Meeting on mental health in elite sport. The conference aimed to identify the role of elite athletes and coaches’ mental wellbeing and to acknowledge the needs in providing professional mental health support services to them.
Ever since its creation, Sport and Citizenship think tank has been committed to health and sport; thus it attended with great interest the debate on mental health in elite sport.
After welcoming the participants, Bogdan Wenta (MEP) gave the floor to Prof. Paul Wylleman (Vrije Universiteit Brussels) whose introductory words focused on the impact of elite sport on mental health. Followed by a roundtable moderated by Frédéric Destrebecq (European Brain Council) where Lisette Theunissen (Paralympian swimmer), Jessie Barr (400m hurdles) and Chris Kerr (Gaelic football) gave some insight into the challenges taken up by athletes regarding mental health.
Moving into concrete examples on mental health support services for athletes, Maurits Hendriks (TeamNL) presented the support mechanisms set up by TeamNL to help athletes building mental health. Prof. Peter Falkai (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) then focused on the use of resilience to build mental health in elite athletes and coaches. Besides identifying social relations as a core competence crucial to resilience, he explained how he figured out sport and physical activity as part of the healing process of schizophrenia.
Finally, Prof. Paul Wylleman issued a number of recommendations, including one which stipulated the establishment of an international working group in order to formulate guidelines for the Member States on mental health in elite sport.
By Alexandra ONGONO POMME, Policy Officer of Think Tank Sport and Citizenship