The IOC has been leading the way on athlete mental health and published a Consensus Paper in 2019 to guide athlete support measures in the Olympic Movement.
We have been providing you with well-being content, resources, and events to help you navigate the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The #MentallyFit Helpline has been created to support athletes throughout editions of the Games, starting with Tokyo 2020 and continuing through Beijing 2022.
Providing a framework for the Olympic Movement
In 2018, recognising the importance of mental health, the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission assembled a team of international experts to review the scientific literature addressing mental health symptoms and disorders in elite athletes. The result was a landmark Consensus Paper, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in May 2019, which recommended prevention and management techniques for doctors, psychiatrists, and other professionals who work with elite athletes.
A number of the authors of the study have since joined the IOC Mental Health Working Group, which is continuing to take action to create effective ways that the Olympic Movement can support you with your mental health.
International Athletes’ Forum
The co-chair of the IOC Mental Health Working Group, Vincent Gouttebarge, and the athlete representative, Abhinav Bindra, joined a vital panel discussion on mental health at the International Athletes’ Forum in April 2019. The panel also featured IOC Medical and Scientific Commission Chair Dr Richard Budgett, and Gracie Gold, the American figure skater and Olympic medallist who has been so open about her struggles with mental illness.
“At first I didn’t want to come out about it because of the stigma, which made me feel like I was the only one who wasn’t strong enough,” Gracie said of her decision to tell her story in the media. “But I got hundreds and hundreds of responses from athletes at all levels and in all sports, saying ‘me too’.”
The panel discussion and the response to it has helped bring forward the discussions on athlete mental health across the globe and will lead to the creation of a Mental Health Toolkit for athletes, a project which is being driven by the IOC Athletes’ Commission.
The most recent edition of the International Athletes’ Forum took place in 2021 and featured a renewed focus on the topic of mental health. An athlete well-being panel featured IOC AC Member Abhinav Bhindra, Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn, and others, who spoke openly about some of their struggles and how important open dialogue is to creating a safe space for athletes.
AT FIRST I DIDN’T WANT TOC OME OUT ABOUT IT BECAUSE OF THE STIGMA, WHICH MADE ME FEEL LIKE I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO WASN’T STRONG ENOUGH. BUT I GOT HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF RESPONSES FROM ATHLETES AT ALL LEVELS AND IN ALL SPORTS, SAYING ‘ME TOO’.
In recent years, Athlete365 has been raising awareness of the importance of mental health in-person at events and through digital campaigns. For example, on World Mental Health Day 2019, we released a video that showed how mental and physical health are inseparable. The video reached more than one million people, helping to further break the silence and drive the conversation around mental health in sport.
A greater emphasis on mental health was then included in the athlete education programme for the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020, with young athletes encouraged to embrace the topic.
At Tokyo 2020, a number of new resources and initiatives were put in place for the first time, demonstrating that mental health should be considered as important as physical health for athletes.
IN ADDITION TO A SUITE OF EXPERT-LED CONTENT AND PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR STAYING POSITIVE DURING THIS PERIOD OF UNCERTAINTY, WE LAUNCHED A SERIES OF WEBINARS TO FURTHER SUPPORT AND INSPIRE YOU.
Helping you stay #MentallyFit during COVID-19
With COVID-19 turning athletes’ lives upside down all over the world, causing isolation from communities, and putting goals and dreams on hold, athlete mental health become more important than ever.
We quickly organised a survey of more than 4,000 athletes and entourage members, where we asked the question: ‘What are you currently finding most challenging?’ In response, 32% of you revealed that you had been finding ‘managing your mental health’ most challenging, while 40% of entourage members said ‘supporting their athletes’ mental health’ was one of their biggest challenges.
We listened, and we responded. In addition to a suite of expert-led content and practical advice for staying positive during this period of uncertainty, we launched a series of webinars to further support and inspire you. One of them, which took place on 16 June 2020, was specifically dedicated to mental health and featured Dr Claudia Reardon, co-chair of the IOC Mental Health Working Group, who shared tips for athletes and entourage members for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Equipping entourage with knowledge
A new certificate, entitled the IOC Elite Athlete Mental Health Certification, is to be launched with the goal of giving athletes’ entourage the knowledge and skills to recognise potential mental health concerns at an early stage within their athletes. It will also promote the role of specialist professionals within the field, and encourage entourage to refer their athletes when appropriate.
IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit
This new toolkit has been developed to cover the diverse requirements of sports organisations and individuals involved in the Olympic Movement including International Federations, National Olympic Committees, athletes, entourage members, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders.
The toolkit’s aim is to provide advice, guidance, and resources which will help to foster psychologically safe athletic environments for elite athletes.
The IOC #MentallyFit Helpline is available for all athletes who competed at Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022. The Helpline will run from the immediate period before each edition of the Games, during the event and for 6 months after the Games, totalling 8 months of support for each event.
This helpline offers online and telephone counselling and support services to athletes and is available 24 hours per day in 70 languages.