Student athletes benefit from network of mental health experts

A TASS lifestyle practitioner meets with an athlete (Credit: Andy Thompson)

With high-profile initiatives like Heads Together raising mental health awareness across the nation, several sports organisations have also joined the campaign to increase understanding of mental health and wellbeing issues experienced by high-performance athletes.

The hurdles sportspeople face during and after their sporting careers such as recovering from injury, a lack of identity outside sport and transitioning into the ‘real world’ have now been identified as key challenges that could potentially cause mental health problems.

And student-athletes are no exception. TASS aims to nurture the next generation of sporting stars, providing specialist services to help young athletes perform to the best of their ability both in their sport and their study.

A key element of the support programme is contact with a dedicated lifestyle practitioner who works to help athletes balance the demands of a dual career and manage key transitions that, if left unaddressed, could trigger mental health issues.

And as an enhancement of this existing service, more than 500 talented athletes are now benefitting from round the clock access to a national network of psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors, via a new partnership between TASS and mental health experts, Cognacity.

The Harley Street clinic provides mental wellbeing and performance services to high-performance athletes, with support available across a range of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, body perception issues and stress-related disorders.

TASS-supported athletes can now access this counselling service, along with the other support available at a TASS Delivery Site, through the Health Partners private medical scheme, which is an advantage of being on the annual support programme.

Cognacity, who were the ‘On Call Psych’ team working at the London 2012 Olympics, have provided all current TASS athletes with a 24/7 confidential helpline number to access treatment immediately, or an email address to contact for less urgent advice.

“Our duty of care towards TASS athletes, which includes their mental wellbeing, is taken very seriously,” said TASS Network Manager, Craig Williams.

“Previously we’ve relied on our network of sports doctors to refer mental health cases to appropriate clinical practitioners, we believe this new partnership with Cognacity is a valuable addition to the services already provided by TASS practitioners.

“Cognacity have an excellent track record having worked with a number of NGBs and we know that TASS athletes have already accessed this service in the first two months.”

Dr Philip Hopley, Cognacity Managing Director and Consultant Psychiatrist, added: “Mental health problems are common, affecting up to one in four adults in the UK at any given time.

“Sportsmen and women are not exempt from these problems and have to cope with additional pressures of performance and the expectations, both their own and others, that come with competition. Subsequent mental health problems can adversely affect sportsmen and women’s ability to perform optimally.

“At Cognacity, our business model allows us to treat the full spectrum of mental wellbeing from mental health disorders to delivering resilience training and high performance coaching. We encourage our sporting clients to seek help at the earliest opportunity in order to get back to their best quickly.”