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UKSI hosts its inaugural Mental Health in Elite Sport Conference

23 February 2024

The UK Sports Institute (UKSI) recently hosted its inaugural Mental Health in Elite Sport Conference, which saw over 100 people from across the high-performance system attend the event in Birmingham.

The day provided an opportunity for people to come together to focus on mental health and well-being support, network, and gain insight from sessions that took place throughout the Conference.

After an introduction from Sam Cumming, Head of Mental Health at the UKSI, and Ellie Griffin, Mental Health Officer at the UKSI, the morning focused on two PhD findings on mental health in Olympic and Paralympic sports. Dr Alan Currie, UKSI Mental Health Expert Panel, then presented on Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDs) and the 10-year journey since the model’s development.

The afternoon focused on support before, during and after the Paris 2024 Games, with talks from Penny Briscoe (ParalympicsGB Paris 2024 Chef de Mission), Dr Amanda Gatherer (UKSI Mental Health Expert Panel) and Dr Carrie McCrea (Team GB Medical Officer and Mental Health Lead).

Danielle Adams-Norenberg, Head of Sports Psychology at the UKSI, and Sarah Cecil, Sport Psychologist at the UKSI, presented on the Performance Decompression project, successfully launched after Tokyo 2020 and is something athletes and support staff will be encouraged to do after Paris 2024.

One of the highlights of the day was an athlete panel featuring Kristian Thomas (former Olympic Gymnast), Courtney Winfield-Hill (Rugby League and Cricket coach) and Jack Hunter-Spivey (Paralympic Table Tennis player), who discussed mental health at major events.

When reflecting on the day, Sam Cumming, UKSI Head of Mental Health, said: “It was fantastic to see so many people attend the event – I was surprised and a little bit in awe of how many people showed up considering it was the first time we have done this.

“Everyone is so geographically spread that it’s rare to get time together, so being able to facilitate this whilst highlighting the great work in this space was a real positive for me.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey, Paralympic Table Tennis player, added: “It’s incredible to see Conferences like this happening, as events like these create a safe space to talk about mental health in sport.

“From an athlete’s perspective, days like this highlight how much work goes into mental health, which is incredible.”

After such a successful inaugural event, there is hope for the UKSI to continue to run these Conferences or similar opportunities in the future.

The countdown is on to the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games that take place later this year in Paris. The UK Sports Institute will be supporting sports and athletes in the build up to the Games, as well as having a large number of practitioners on the ground in Paris.