UK Sport appoints first mental health lead

05 Dec 2018

By: Sport Industry Group

UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS) have appointed performance psychologist Dr James Bell to a new role as head of mental health.

The move is part of plans to improve mental health provision in the UK High Performance system.

Last month, the two organisations joined forces to publish a landmark Mental Health Strategy, following athlete welfare concerns affecting several Olympic and Paralympic sports national governing bodies.

Dr Bell, who has experience with the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Cleveland Browns and the Rugby Football Union, will take on the role alongside his existing duties as head of culture at UK Sport.

He said: "I am privileged to be taking up this new role focused on mental health across the High Performance System which will build on the existing support already available in Home Country Sports Institutes and National Governing Bodies.

“Positive strides have already been made within this area, and alongside the appointment of the expert Mental Health panel I am excited to be part of a system that puts the mental health of the athletes and staff at the heart of our culture. It is critical that we take a leading role in the education, support and provision allocated to mental health in elite sport in the UK.”

The appointment marks the first stage of implementing the Mental Health Strategy, which was developed by a group including representatives from UK Sport, EIS, the British Athletes Commission (BAC), World Class Programmes, industry and the mental health charity MIND. 

It followed the results of a Culture Health Check commissioned by UK Sport, which found that 24% of athletes were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the "measures taken in their sport to optimise the mental health" of high-performance athletes in the UK system.

Craig Ranson, EIS director of athlete health, said: “The introduction of the Mental Health Strategy alongside these appointments means that great strides are being made to accelerate and expand mental health support for the High Performance System. 

“Collaborative work with sports will continue to ensure good practice can be shared to offer the best support to athletes and staff."

As part of the new strategy, UK Sport and the EIS have also established a panel of experts including Dr Steve Peters, the Team Sky psychiatrist and former head of medicine at British Cycling.

Photo: © Getty Images