British Cycling launches new mental health strategy

British Cycling has launched a new Mental Health Strategy to proactively support the mental health and well-being of the Great Britain cycling team.

The new strategy includes the introduction of a concussion policy, a cardiac screening policy, a Clinical Governance Committee, a standard operating procedure for medical incidents whilst training at the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre and standardised illness and injury advice for riders when training and competing away from the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre.

Doctor Nigel Jones, head of medical services for the Great Britain 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.

“The aim is to move away from the more traditional approach of reactively providing external support to those diagnosed with a mental health ‘disorder’ and to instead shift the focus to a proactive approach of educating our coaches and support staff to allow for better understanding, toleration, containment and ultimately decreasing the prevalence and impact of challenging behaviours and mental distress.

“The first key area of focus is to support and develop those primarily responsible for the provision of mental health support. We now have two full-time sports psychologists, Rich Hampson and Lara Barrett, employed by the EIS to work full-time with the Great Britain Cycling Team, which is double the provision we had this time eight months ago. For specific cases, UK Sport will be providing monthly access to a clinical psychologist to offer supervision which will, in turn, provide improved, more informed support for our athletes.

“The second key area is educating the wider coaching and support team around general principles of human development and creating the optimal high challenge, high support environment. The aim here is for the staff to develop a better understanding of specific presenting difficulties within individual athletes, and to facilitate sessions with all support providers across the team to develop appropriate action plans.

“Thirdly, new athletes joining the programme will undergo a mental health screening and existing programme athletes will be screened on a six-monthly basis, allowing us to identify athletes who are struggling mentally but may not recognise this themselves.

“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 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.”

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