IOC's Mental Health Action Plan: Boosting Athletes' Well-being and Safe Environments

IOC's Ongoing Commitment to Athlete Well-being Expands Further

by Nouman Rasool
IOC's Mental Health Action Plan: Boosting Athletes' Well-being and Safe Environments

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has unveiled a comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan that underscores its commitment to safeguarding and enhancing the mental well-being of athletes. Recognizing that mental health is as crucial as physical health, the plan emphasizes a holistic approach to support athletes' overall performance and welfare.

Guided by the principles of human rights, equity, evidence-based practices, and collaboration, the Mental Health Action Plan serves as a roadmap for the IOC's efforts to promote mental well-being across four critical areas of responsibility: the IOC as an organization, the IOC as the proprietor of the Olympic Games, the IOC as the leader of the Olympic Movement, and the role of Olympism in society.

The plan encompasses five thematic focus areas with corresponding objectives and actions to be achieved by the end of 2026. The first area, culture, and leadership, calls for establishing a policy environment that recognizes and prioritizes mental health and well-being.

The second area, measurement, and research, aims to improve mental health epidemiology in elite athletes and under-researched groups, considering cross-cultural differences. The third area, reducing prevalence and improving well-being, focuses on developing tailored tools and initiatives to enhance mental health literacy, reduce stigma, and address sport-specific stressors.

The fourth area, improve care, encourages the creation of psychologically safe athletic environments, facilitating help-seeking behaviors and establishing pathways to care. Finally, the fifth area, improving access to sports, promotes the mental health benefits derived from engaging in sports and Olympism, particularly in resource-limited settings, thereby contributing to the ideals of Olympism365.

Building on Previous Initiatives

This Mental Health Action Plan builds upon previous initiatives by the IOC, including the publication of the IOC Consensus Statement on mental health in elite athletes in 2019 and the establishment of the IOC Mental Health Working Group.

The plan aligns with the recommendations of the Olympic Agenda 2020+5, which emphasizes increased mental health support for elite athletes and the utilization of sports to promote a healthier world aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

To support the plan's implementation, the IOC has expanded resources through Athlete365, such as the dedicated #MentallyFit section and the IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit. These resources, alongside educational programs like the Certificate and Diploma in Mental Health in Elite Sport, are crucial in providing leadership within the Olympic Movement and raising awareness among National Olympic Committees and International Federations.

Furthermore, the Mental Health Action Plan aligns with the IOC's Olympism365 strategy, which seeks to leverage sport's potential to advance the UN SDGs. By fostering partnerships with organizations worldwide, the IOC aims to unite individuals and communities through physical activity and sport, thus promoting the significant mental benefits associated with participation.

The IOC's new Mental Health Action Plan demonstrates its unwavering dedication to supporting the mental well-being of athletes. By integrating expert-led initiatives and collaborating with various stakeholders, the IOC aims to create a more inclusive and psychologically safe environment for athletes, further strengthening the symbiotic relationship between mental health and athletic performance.