Health and Mental Wellbeing

There have been positive steps taken in recent years to raise the profile of mental health, not just in sport but in society more widely. Being both physically active and playing sport can have a very positive impact on mental health. It can improve a participant’s mood, concentration, self-confidence, sleeping habits, resilience, and help them make friends. On the other hand, the routine element of elite sport, where the regime is one of continuous training, performance and selection, brings significant mental resilience challenges for both participants and coaches. Mental health and wellbeing are major considerations in performance sport and should be treated accordingly.

scottishathletics aims to foster an environment where people feel able to discuss issues in confidence and are aware of where they can go to get help, both within and outside the sport.

It is important for coaches, through education opportunities, to become more aware of mental health issues and consideration should be given to including the recognition of such issues and appropriate signposting.

Therefore, this section aims to:

  • Encourage people to talk about mental health issues
  • Promote awareness of the support available and how to access it
  • Provide better training of welfare officers and other staff in sport (including coaches) – including awareness of early signs of mental health issues
  • Provide access to confidential support
  • Support for mental health issues within the sport and priority given to promoting mental health

The content in this section is not designed to be an independent treatment model nor is it in place of professional advice. It is designed to complement existing evidence-based treatments provided by specialist eating disorder services and provide additional support. Please consult your GP/clinician if you have any concerns or need further advice.

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Resources from SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health)

SAMH is Scotland’s largest mental health charity representing the voice of people affected by mental health problems in Scotland. Every year 1 in 4 of us in Scotland will experience a mental health problem. SAMH has developed a series of advice, resources and online training courses that can be utilised by all, whether you suffer from mental health problems, know someone who is dealing with mental health problems or are just interested in finding out more. SAMH website – Helpline 0141 530 1000 – email:

scottishathletics is a signatory of Scotland’s Mental Health Charter for Physical Activity and Sport. The Charter uses the collective power of physical activity and sport to create positive lasting change in mental health and wellbeing.

Wellbeing Assessment

We can all expect to feel under the weather sometimes, perhaps pick up a cold or sore throat. But when it comes to the way we feel emotionally, it can be hard to recognise or admit that we are not feeling good. This wellbeing assessment tool can help you measure your own wellbeing, so you can decide whether it’s time to ask for help, or monitor changes over time.

Five Ways to Better Wellbeing

We all have mental health, just as we have physical health, and it is important to look after it. There are lots of things we can do every day to support our wellbeing. SAMH suggests five ways to improve your mental health – connect with other people; be active; take notice of the world around you; keep learning throughout life; give to/help others.

For more information, you can download the Five Ways to Better Wellbeing guide.

Understanding Mental Health Problems

Understanding Mental Health Problems provides is a booklet produced by SAMH outlining the most common mental health problems, their possible causes and what help is available.

Understanding Depression

Depression varies very much from person to person and can happen for many reasons. Occasionally it may appear for no obvious reason. The Understanding Depression booklet produced by SAMH explains the symptoms of depression and details the treatments available.

Understanding Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time. However, if anxiety stays at a high level for a long time, it may become difficult to deal with in everyday life. Anxiety can become severe and sometimes if the feelings overwhelm, this can turn into a panic attack. Understanding Anxiety is a booklet aimed at anyone who experiences anxiety. Friends and relatives of people who experience anxiety may also find it useful.

Stigma and Discrimination

People with mental illness may sometimes find they face stigma or discrimination. The See Me website has a useful guide to Stigma and Discrimination and how to challenge it.

Further information

SAMH website
See Me website

scottishathletics would like to acknowledge and thank SAMH for their support in providing the information and resources

Mental Wellbeing in Sport and Physical Activity – Online Course

This course is aimed at those who participate in sport and their support networks such as coaches, family and medical support staff, and was written in partnership with Jane Fylan, UK Athletics Duty of Care Lead and is endorsed by Double Gold Olympic medallist, Dame Kelly Holmes DBE.

Course Objectives:

  • Have a greater awareness of common mental health disorders and their prevalence amongst sports people
  • Recognise some of the warning signs of common mental health disorders
  • Have an increased understanding of how the pressures of sport can impact on mental health
  • Understand the health benefits of participating in sport and physical activity
  • Know what to do if you are concerned about someone
  • Know how to promote mental wellbeing in sport

To access the course, please click here and search for mental wellbeing – if no courses show, none are currently planned but may be scheduled in future.

Working with Female Athletes – Free Online Module and Additional Resources

A free interactive online module is available on the Brightspace platform, which can be accessed by all, free of charge.The module provides an understanding of:

  • The main developmental factors for athlete health from childhood through to adulthood
  • The main anatomical, hormonal and psychological differences between males and females and when these become apparent
  • The common and less common medical problems seen in female athletes
  • Practical guidance on how to signpost and manage these issues
  • Increased confidence in identification and management of athlete development health issues.

All of the downloadable resources and the link to the free online module can be found in the ‘Working With Female Athletes’ section of the sportscotland learning area:

Working Group

The course is provided by the sportscotland Institute of Sport Female Athlete Performance Working group. The group brings together a group of inter-disciplinary specialists from a diversity of support services with their aim being to develop a wider understanding of female athletes and the related support being delivered.

Their plan incorporates the following three main strategies:

  • Strategy 1: Understanding: Evidence based practice and applied research.
  • Strategy 2: Implementing: Education and learning.
  • Strategy 3: Influencing: Our culture

As they continue their research, the group are developing resources to support coaches, parents and athletes to better understand female athlete health and how it relates to sport.

Eating disorders / Disordered eating in athletes

While many athletes follow a training regime accompanied by a diet that supports health and performance, some will struggle with their weight and body image. Those who follow diets that do not provide the correct nutritional intake and engage in excessive training programmes are at greater risk of developing disordered eating patterns, which can, in some instances lead to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

Eating disorders are complex. Whether or not they occur in a sporting context, they will seriously compromise the health of the individual and indeed can be life-threatening. Complex problems seldom have simple solutions or explanations. Nonetheless, measures can be incorporated into the support that athletes receive that will reduce the risk of problems developing and/or expedite recovery.

Beat Eating disorders

The UK’s largest eating disorder charity, Beat, can be a great source of advice and support. The charity have a lot of resources on their website and also run online and telephone support services. Their website has information about accessing support services.

They also offer 365-day-a-year phone helplines, one-to-one web chats and email support.

Transitions is a free online short course to increase awareness and knowledge of the transitions experienced by young people (people aged 12 to 25) affected by an eating disorder (use the icon in the top right to create an account).

Beat ambassadors

Beat have a network of ambassador volunteers who are able to engage on a grassroots level with clubs/coaches to educate and raise awareness as well as input their experiences to development work. Clubs interested in a visit from Beat ambassadors, please email Sara Preston, Senior National Officer (Scotland).

CARED – Scotland

CARED is an online resourcee, developed in partnership with NHS Lothian , or parents and carers of a young person with a recently diagnosed eating disorder, providing hints, tips, resources and tutorials. This resource has been created to give parents up-to-date knowledge about these illnesses, as well as providing opportunities for skills development.

Accessing Help

The resources listed above provide information and access to support. There are also specialist NHS services providing treatment for eating disorders in most areas of Scotland. These are child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) or adult eating disorders services. Access to these services is by GP referral and therefore your GP is your first port of call. Beat provide a handy guide about meeting with your GP.

Further information / links

Talk ED Is a national charity supporting anyone affected by any eating disorder or eating distress.
NHS information on Eating Disorders online
NEEDS website (North East Eating Disorders Support Scotland)

Shared experiences

Law and District AAC athlete Jessica Robson wrote about her history with an Eating Disorder, in PB magazine, and in the news pages of our website. Click through for her article, and beneath that, the page also includes some advice from leading sport and ED expert, Renee McGregor.

‘You can’t win when chasing perfection’ – Jessica Robson

scottishathletics hosted a seminar which helped raise awareness of eating disorders and disordered eating in athletics. In the seminar, we discuss eating disorders (and disordered eating) in sport; the general and sport-specific pressures that may affect athletes, current treatment issues for athletes, and how athletes could be better supported when returning to sport.

Louise Capicotto, Sport & Exercise Psychologist

Jayne Nisbet, Commonwealth Games Finalist


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