“World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10th every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.” (WHO, 2020).
For our research group ‘Sport Psychology and Mental Support’ and the department ‘Top Sport & Study’, mental health is a topic that is close to our hearts. We are continuously investing in designing and conducting research and applied projects on mental health in sports. Below is an overview of projects on mental health in which we are currently involved and projects that are (hopefully!) in the offing.
Impact of corona on Flemish athletes’ mental health
In collaboration with the Flemish sport administration (Sport Vlaanderen), we are conducting a project on the impact of COVID-19 on Flemish elite athletes’ lives. Results indicated that 28% of elite athletes experienced a negative impact of corona on their mental health, expressed in increased anxiety and worry, feelings of uncertainty, lack/loss of control, and reduced motivation. On the contrary, 48% of athletes experienced no impact of corona on their mental health, and 16% reported a positive impact of corona on mental health (e.g. reduced stress levels, increased control and better life balance; more time to invest in strengthening mental health). Based on the results, tools are provided to elite athletes to improve their mental health and wellbeing. More information and results: https://www.sport.vlaanderen/topsport-in-coronatijden/ (webpage in Dutch) and/or email email@example.com
Mental health of VUB student-athletes
The department “Top Sport & Study” of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel monitors its student-athletes closely by tracking their athletic and academic trajectories, need for academic flexibility, development of dual career competencies, and satisfaction about different life domains (e.g. mental health and well-being). In parallel, individual and group sessions are organized aimed at optimizing student-athletes’ mental health (e.g. workshops on time management, goal setting, career planning, coping with stress, developing resilience, social competencies). More information: www.vub.be/topsport/ (webpage in Dutch) and/or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mental health and athletic retirement
With the support of the Advanced Olympic Research Grant Programme provided by the Olympic Studies Centre of the IOC, we conducted research on the impact of athletic retirement on athletes’ mental health and well-being. Specifically, the project developed practical guidelines for support services on how athletes should be assisted before, during, and after athletic retirement. The final report will soon be published in the IOC online library. On December 1, an online international congress will be organised where the results of this project will be presented. More information: https://spmb.research.vub.be/en/ioc-project-how-should-athletes-be-supported-before-during-and-after-athletic-retirement or email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Mind the Gap: Mental health in elite football
In the Erasmus+ sport project “Mind The Gap”, coordinated by FIFPRO, we identified roles and competencies of player development managers, integrating support for dual career and mental health into one framework. Mind the Gap showed how dual career and mental health support can be integrated by sport organizations and support providers. More information on the project and its outcomes can be consulted here or email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Mental health of elite-level coaches
In collaboration with the Dutch Olympic Committee (TeamNL), we conducted a research project on the mental health of elite-level coaches in Belgium and the Netherlands. Results highlighted that up to 39% of coaches experience symptoms of depression/anxiety. Furthermore, these symptoms were positively related to organizational stress and negatively related to psychological resilience. For more information, email to email@example.com
Mental health of performing artists
SPMB also conducts research on the mental health of performing artists, including classical musicians and electronic music artists. These projects were done in collaboration with the Free University of Amsterdam. The findings from these studies have recently been published in two peer-review articles:
- Kegelaers, J., Schuijer, M., & Oudejans, R.R.D. (2020). Resilience and mental health issues in classical musicians: A preliminary study. Psychology of Music.
- Kegelaers, J., Jessen, L., Van Audenaerde, E., & Oudejans, R.R.D. (in press). Performers of the night: Examining the mental health of electronic music artists. Psychology of Music.
For more information, email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Projects in the pipeline
Dual Careers for Mental Health (DC4MH)
For the 2020 Erasmus+ Sport call, SPMB submitted as a coordinator a collaborative partnership project entitled Dual Careers for Mental Health (DC4MH). The European Commission will publish the results mid-October 2020. DC4MH brings together a consortium of 28 experts on mental health and dual career representing 10 organizations from 6 Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden). DC4MH aims to optimize mental health services within European Dual Career (DC) ‘elite sports and education’ organizations. More specifically, the objective is to develop, implement, and evaluate evidence-based mental health promotion recommendations and tools, centered around: (1) Mental health structures in DC organizations; (2) Mental health monitoring; (3) Mental health literacy; and (4) Preventive psychological resilience-building strategies. More information here or email to email@example.com
Mental health in elite female athletes and coaches
In April 2020, SPMB applied for an FWO grant, with a project entitled ‘Mental health in elite female athletes and coaches’. Results will be published in October 2020. The project will look at how gender-typical challenges and stressors throughout the careers of female athletes and coaches might impact their mental health. This project will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia). For more information, email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Continued professional development of Dual Career Support Providers
In 2021, we will launch a training programme targeting the continuing professional development of dual career support providers. An important part of the programme will focus on safeguarding and optimizing the mental health of student-athletes and their support providers.
PSYchological support for young athletes engaged in dual CAREer (PSYCARE)
Also for the 2020 Erasmus+ Sport call, SPMB submitted as a partner a project entitled “PSYchological support for young athletes engaged in dual CAREer” (PSYCARE). The European Commission will publish the results mid-October 2020. PSYCARE aims at training and upskilling sport coaches to enable them to assist young athletes in the dual career process. The project is coordinated by University Rehabilitation Institut Soča (Slovenia). More information: email to email@example.com