Mental health in Germany: examples of good practice in preventing mental disorders and promoting mental health in elite athletes

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In 2009 the German national soccer goalkeeper Robert Enke committed suicide due to severe depression. At the time it was becoming increasingly acknowledged that elite athletes are not protected from or immune to mental health disorders (e.g., depression, burnout, anxiety) but are at the same risk as the normal population (Belz, Kleinert, Ohlert, Rau, & Allroggen, 2018; Frank, Nixdorf, & Beckmann, 2015; Junge & Feddermann-Demont, 2016) or even more prone to specific mental health problems such as eating disorders (Bratland-Sanda & Sundgot-Borgen, 2013). Over the past decade there has been an increasing interest in supporting athletes’ mental health (Moesch et al., 2018) and also in Germany the first applied initiatives (e.g., MentalEmpowerment, Robert-Enke-Foundation, Department for Sport Psychiatry) providing support for elite athletes with regard to their mental health were founded. These initiatives focus on either the prevention of or therapy for mental health disorders. In order to offer the optimal level of support, athletes should receive help at an early stage in their development so that prevention programs on sport psychology basics (e.g., activation regulation, self-talk, positive imagery) can foster their mental strength or resilience. This becomes important when critical situations like injury, squad selection processes or stressful personal situations (e.g., exams, conflicts with parents or peers) occur and increase the individual stress level of the athlete. Furthermore, help also should be offered when athletes are already suffering from more severe mental health problems (e.g., depressive mood, anxiety or eating disorders). In Germany, there are several applied initiatives that provide support for elite athletes with regard to their mental health. The purpose of this presentation is to describe two examples, the initiatives mentaltalent and MentalEmpowerment, which aim to systematically structure and provide sport psychology services in order to promote mental health. If an athlete subsequently requires referral to psychotherapeutic or psychiatric care, MentalEmpowerment also provides contact to specialized experts and appropriate therapy. Additionally, we will provide an overview of how different professions collaborate within the aforementioned German initiatives and how these processes can be improved in the future. For future perspectives, we will discuss the initiatives mentaltalent and MentalEmpowerment, with their networks of scientists and practitioners from sport psychology, psychotherapy, and psychiatry, should more intensively discuss the common goals and programs that contribute to the mental health of athletes. This could be a further step in learning from other countries and sharing strategies that have already been developed.
ZeitschriftInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Seiten (von - bis)S114-S115
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2021
VeranstaltungInternational Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) World Congress: The Future of Sport and Exercise Psychology. New Horizons Beyond the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the Pandemic World - Taipei, Taiwan
Dauer: 30.09.202104.10.2021
Konferenznummer: 15


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