British Cycling launches new mental health strategy

British Cycling has today announced the launch of its new Mental Health Strategy to proactively support the mental health and well-being of Great Britain’s cycling team.

The strategy includes the introduction of a concussion policy, cardiac screening policy, Clinical Governance Committee, standard operating procedure for medical incidents and standardised illness and injury advice for riders when training and competing.

Doctor Nigel Jones, head of medical services for the GB Cycling Team, said: “We took the decision to revise our approach to athlete mental health and well-being based on the acknowledgement that, as an elite sports team, we operate in a high challenge, high support environment. Much like we encourage a proactive approach to other areas of health and well-being, such as saddle health or injury prevention, we have applied the same philosophy to proactively managing mental health and well-being in order to try to prevent issues in the future.

“With support from UK Sport, English Institute of Sport (EIS) and British Cycling’s Clinical Governance Committee, our mental health strategy now focuses on the development of resilient people through a more psychologically informed environment.”

According to Jones, the aim of the strategy is to move away from reactively providing support to those diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and move towards a proactive approach of educating coaches and support staff, allowing for better understanding, toleration, containment.

British Cycling has employed two full-time sports psychologists, Rich Hampson and Lara Barrett to work with the GB Cycling Team full-time, and will provide monthly access to a clinical psychologist to offer supervision for special cases.

The second key area of the new strategy is to educate the wider coaching and support team around general principles of human development in a bid to create the optimal high challenge, high support environment.

New athletes joining the programme will undergo a mental health screening while existing programme athletes will be screened every six months, allowing British cycling to identify athletes who are struggling mental but may not recognise it themselves.

Jones continued: “Finally, we will be providing clearly signposted mental health pathways which enable the athlete to feel comfortable when seeking help and know the range of options available to them.

“As a firm believer that putting the health and mental well-being of our athletes first is the right thing to do and the best way to achieve success, I am confident this revised strategy will enhance the mental health and well-being of our athletes for their own personal benefit as well as supporting their cycling ambitions.”

Stephen Park, Great Britain Cycling Team Performance Director, added: “The implementation of our revised mental health strategy is another step forward in our commitment to putting athlete welfare at the heart of what we do. It’s important that we create a culture and environment in which our athletes feel supported, and one which they want to be a part of. Psychology plays an integral part in that, so I’m pleased with the progress Nigel, Rich and their teams have made in this area.

“The revised mental health strategy is just one piece of the jigsaw in terms of how we’re constantly looking for improvements in the support we can offer to our riders. It’s not to say that we have all the answers, but rather we are committed to making improvements in the services we are able to offer. Our ambition is to top the medal tables once again in Tokyo 2020, and we now have some solid foundations in place to support our athletes in achieving our ambitions.”

Hayley Everett

Multimedia Reporter

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