UK Sport and EIS enhance mental health support

UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS) can now confirm a number of key appointments to drive forward implementation of the Mental Health Strategy for the High Performance System.

The Mental Health Strategy was initially developed by the Mental Health Steering Group which includes representation from; UK Sport, EIS, the British Athletes Commission (BAC), World Class Programmes, industry and the mental health charity MIND. The strategy is designed to promote a sustainable High Performance System where all people have the best opportunity to have positive mental health and ensure there is appropriate support for those experiencing mental health problems.
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The High Performance System is a unique environment which makes significant demands on all of those who work and train in it; and creates the possibility of mental health challenges at some point. Therefore, it requires a dynamic approach to mental health that educates and promotes positive mental health, and reduces the risk of mental health problems developing, alongside an early intervention approach to managing problems as they arise.

To accelerate the implementation of the Mental Health Strategy, UK Sport and the EIS is excited to confirm the appointments of the Head of Mental Health and an Expert Mental Health panel which will advise the High Performance System over the coming years. They will form part of the EIS Athlete Health team, working across disciplines and World Class Programmes.
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The appointments will add experience and expertise to ensure collaboration and the sharing of good practice is at the heart of enhanced system wide mental health support.

Dr James Bell, a performance psychologist with experience with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the Cleveland Browns and the Rugby Football Union, has been appointed Head of Mental Health at the EIS alongside his existing duties as Head of Culture at UK Sport.

Speaking about his role, he said: “I am privileged to be taking up this new role focused on mental health across the High Performance System which will build on the existing support already available in Home Country Sports Institutes and World Class Programmes.
“Positive strides have already been made within this area, and alongside the appointment of the expert Mental Health panel I am excited to be part of a system that puts the mental health of the athletes and staff at the heart of our culture. It is critical that we take a leading role in the education, support and provision allocated to mental health in elite sport in the UK.”

To further support the delivery of the Mental Health Strategy a Mental Health Manager will be appointed in December.

A Mental Health Expert Panel will provide unique expertise and support to World Class Programmes. The panel consists of:

• Professor Alan Currie (Psychiatrist) – NHS Consultant Psychiatrist and Lecturer. Alan is Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Sports and Exercise Psychiatry Special Interest Group (SEPSIG) and a member of the International Society for Sport Psychiatry (ISSP). He joined the International Olympic Committee Consensus Group on athlete mental health earlier this year
• Dr Allan Johnston (Consultant Psychiatrist specialising in Sports Psychiatry) – currently employed by Derbyshire NHS Foundation Trust and is a Trustee to the State of Mind sports charity. He was employed as World Rugby League’s first Sports Psychiatrist by the Bradford Bulls RLFC and now works with athletes across a range of sports, dance and performance disciplines
• Dr Amanda Gatherer (Clinical Psychologist) – current Chief Psychologist at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. She has extensive experience with elite athletes through her previous consultancy work with the ECB and the EIS
• Dr Steve Peters (Psychiatrist) – renowned for his work over many years in elite and professional sport, he will have an advisory role as part of the expanded mental health team.

Chelsea Warr, UK Sport Director of Performance, said: “Supporting our nation’s most promising athletes both physical and mental health is of paramount importance. The development and delivery of UK Sport’s/EIS’s Mental Health Strategy, alongside our other Home Country Sport Institutes, will support sports in dealing with complex mental health cases via access to world class experts who have an affinity with High Performance operating environments.

“The strategy will also focus on supporting sports to develop proactive and positive mental health environments that enable athletes and support teams to thrive. The Strategy will play a significant role in ensuring the GB High Performance system remains future focussed, responsible and responsive to today’s and tomorrow’s opportunities for continual improvement.”

Craig Ranson, EIS Director of Athlete Health, added: “The introduction of the Mental Health Strategy alongside these appointments means that great strides are being made to accelerate and expand mental health support for the High Performance System.

“Collaborative work with sports will continue to ensure good practice can be shared to offer the best support to athletes and staff.”