Mental health is a central part of the BEAA’s work. We support elite British athletes by providing a friendly ear, expert advice, and professional referrals, with every individual provided the tailored support they require.
Our dedicated Athlete Support Team are available Monday-Friday, and will stand by an athlete’s side for as long as they need. That can range from a one-off conversation to months of personalised support.
Below, during Mental Health Awareness Week, Athlete Support Manager and Mental Health Lead Emma Speer explains more about help available through the BEAA.
A few years ago athletes made clear to us that they felt mental welfare wasn’t being adequately prioritised in some sports. As a result we ramped up our efforts and put mental health at the forefront of what we do: it’s important for us to normalise it throughout our interactions.
There are mental health provisions across the sporting system, but as an independent organisation athletes might feel more comfortable seeking advice through us, rather than their sport or usual medical channels. For anyone who does, we provide a safe space to openly share how they feel and that they want support.
Our Athlete Support Team is highly trained in mental health provision. Between us we have qualifications that span mental health first-aid, self-harm, and disordered eating, and also understand how to support athletes from minority backgrounds or with neurodivergence considerations.
When an athlete reaches out, we make a swift risk assessment about the support they require. We seek to establish the immediacy of the issue, what the athlete’s support network looks like, and the environment they’re in. We build a holistic understanding of what’s happening and who else an athlete may be able to turn to.
Some athletes want to get something off their chest once and not speak again, and that’s completely fine. We provide our contact details and ensure they know we’re here if required again. Others will need regular check-ins for any amount of time, and that’s equally fine. We handle everyone on a case by case basis and personalise the support accordingly.
Crucially, our support is totally confidential too. Unless there’s an urgent safeguarding concern, we won’t disclose anything to anyone if you don’t want us to: there is full consent in everything we do.
Mental health is especially important in sport because athletes face a unique amount of pressure. We’re in a pre-Games year currently and that in itself can be daunting, whether 2024 is your first or fifth Olympic or Paralympic Games.
We know that training and performing can be stressful, and sometimes athletes have to be pushed to their physical and emotional limits to get the best out of them, but that doesn’t have to be traumatic. We have to acknowledge the impact mental health can have on performance and know where the boundaries are.
The system is trying to move from typically prioritising medals over welfare to ensuring that success doesn’t compromise care, and there are performance benefits to that too. It’s important that support personnel within the sporting system recognise and are considerate of the impact mental health can have on athletes.
We understand that having a safe space to get support, whether that’s through us or someone else, is crucial. So we’re pleased that services and access to those services have improved, and that there’s growing visibility of both positive and negative mental health.
At the BEAA we’re constantly evolving and working with our membership to tailor support as needed. Recently, for example, we helped to enrol athletes onto the UK Sport Institute’s Mental Health Champion training so that they can be empowered to support their peers.
Finally, to anyone debating whether to reach out: how you feel is valid, whether it’s positive or negative. We’re here to listen, advise, and stand with you.
If you require our support at any time, please get in touch via: