AFL partners with Orygen to launch new mental health guide for community sport

The AFL and Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence for Youth Mental Health, have partnered to release the second edition of a world-leading evidence guide for best practice in mental health promotion and early intervention programs for both professional and grassroots sporting groups.

What Works For Mental Health In Sporting Teams? is designed to equip sporting teams and bodies with expert insight into the evidence base behind mental health programs. The guide is now freely available to all community and professional sporting clubs and associations.

The second edition comes following the proliferation of mental health awareness programs offered to sporting clubs since the 2020 release of the groundbreaking first edition, which has been used by sporting organisations around the world and remains the only resource of its kind.

The new edition provides updated evaluations of pre-existing mental health programs, as well as evaluations of an additional eight new programs.

Lead author and Orygen’s Head of Elite Sports and Mental Health, Professor Rosemary Purcell, applauded the AFL for taking a lead role in elevating the importance of evidence in mental health programs.

“The AFL has shown real leadership in not only promoting mental health awareness but also encouraging a focus on evidence-based solutions,” Prof. Purcell said.

“There’s been a sharp increase in programs aimed at raising mental health awareness in sporting clubs. Awareness is great, but it is very important that we go beyond awareness and focus on prevention and intervention, and programs that aim to achieve that need to be scrutinised and backed by evidence.”

AFL Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing Dr Kate Hall said: “We believe football clubs and sporting teams across the country play a crucial part in the promotion of mental wellbeing and the prevention of mental health challenges by contributing to individual and collective wellbeing, and being a vehicle for mental health education.

“The data shows us that the rates of psychological distress remain high amongst young Australians, and it is not uncommon to experience mental health challenges at this age. We want to support all clubs, across all levels, to educate and empower young players to look after their mental health, understand the signs of mental ill health and know where to get help for themselves and their teammates.

“What Orygen’s research has demonstrated is that we have a long way to go in establishing a robust evidence base to guide our mental health promotion and early intervention programs in sport. We hope the guide encourages sporting clubs and mental health programs to continue to invest in program evaluation to build the evidence in this area.

“Among the findings, Movember’s Ahead of the Game became the first program to receive a full three- star rating, with at least three high-quality studies examining the effectiveness of its workshops that focus on enhancing mental health literacy and encouraging athletes, parents and coaches to talk about mental health. Orygen’s research has given us the confidence to partner with Movember to bring Ahead of the Game to football communities around the nation.”


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