The injury that has no quick fix Posted 07th Jun
For the last few days I was in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport doing a course with my colleagues from Football Australia. The course was "Mental Health First Aid" and was run by the Australian Sports Commission. I was there because of my work in Player Development for the FFA but the course had wide reaching benefits for my work as an elite athlete counsellor and working with young people. The outcome of the course is to be able to identify mental health problems in people and act as a first responder.
We covered areas such as suicide, depression, eating disorders, self harming, substance abuse and psychosis. The learning was invaluable, especially in the sporting realm where athletes are experts at covering up what is really going on for them. Athlete development and welfare is commonly viewed as "not high performance" because it is outside the performance structure. However it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that an athlete with a calm, healthy and balanced spirit is going to be a stronger and faster athlete. So it is definitely in the high performance realm.
The course got me thinking about how delicate athletes can be, emotionally and mentally and quite often sport is their way of disappearing into another world where they are strong and revered. If anything goes wrong with that sporting world then their worlds can unravel very very easily. Depression is so common. I read Andre Agassi's book a few years ago....describes it in detail. Sports fan or not....amazing read.
Many don't want their coaches to know they are feeling fragile and emotional - which is understandable - and quite often what they need is to download to somebody who truly understands their world. Ex athletes are very well placed to be a reliable ear and advice portal and this is the space many of us are stepping into.
The course was extremely impacting and as one of the participants put it "could save lives"