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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Mental Health: A Growing Concern for Young Athletes

Andrea, Jack, and India Brown, a family involved in competitive swimming, have initiated a campaign aimed at raising awareness about mental health concerns among young athletes.

According to Forensic Psychiatrist Kike Anunobi, young athletes can experience 600x more stressors than their adult counterparts.

Concerns are being raised due to some shocking reports from families and athletes including child suicides from age seven, high performing young athletes throwing up, experiencing  performance anxiety and quitting their sport all together. Concerns are also around the reporting structures which are not transparent or independent, which means there is a fear of repercussions if you speak up.

The campaign includes an educational documentary with industry experts, free mental health first aid classes, and a supporting ebook, all available free of charge. The family hopes that this will inspire families and clubs at a grassroots level to get started and support their young athletes.

Why should we assume we should be able to deal with pressure, nerves and anxiety if we were never taught how?” says Jake Brown, Performance Psychologist

Kike Anunobi – Forensic Psychiatrist adds; “I think a focus on mental health for young athletes will make a big impact. You will find more athletes doing well even after they stop being athletes.You will find more athletes that are both physically and mentally competent. You will find less athletes becoming drug addicts, using alcohol or just not coping. You will find happier athletes, because what about when the swimming stops? Swimming is just a small aspect of their lives. They are going to be husbands, wives, parents and get jobs. What about all the aspects of their lives? I am bold enough to say that we are going to raise athletes that are going to be in trouble if we don’t take care of their mental health and it will be more difficult for them to ever achieve their full potential”. 

At elite levels all the swimmers are pretty similar physically nowadays. I think the thing that separates the swimmers who go really far in the sport is their mental resilience.”  Ed Sinclair Olympian and Founder of Maximum Performances continues.

“We spend time in the gym to make our muscles strong. Well the brain is a muscle too! If you don’t train it to be strong it will be weak. No one becomes strong by accident. You either become strong by experience or we teach ourselves to be strong” says  Kike Anunobi.

The documentary asks hard questions and includes personal stories from: Olympic Swimmers Jemma Lowe and Ed Sinclair, Forensic Psychiatrist Kike Anunobi, Safeguarding Consultant Keith Oddy, Child abuse Solicitor Dino Nocivelli, Jake Brown Performance Psychologist and Claire Kerslake – Soundwell Swimming Club Welfare Officer. 

Throughout the years there have been abuse scandals in football,  gymnastics and also competitive swimming. Unfortunately sport lacks provision with no independent ombudsman, which means the complaints committees are the same people you hope will pick and promote you up the ranks, leaving competitors feeling like they don’t have an option.

The family believe that by launching this campaign they can raise awareness of the issues of mental health amongst young athletes and remove the stigma around talking about it.

Free ebook:  https://andreabrown3.gumroad.com/l/ebook

Documentaryhttps://www.youtube.com/@Swim-mum/playlists 

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