A family of competitive swimmers – Andrea, Jack, and India Brown – have launched an innovative campaign ahead of “World Mental Health Day” on Tuesday 10th October 2023 to address the mental health crisis among youth athletes.
The campaign focuses on raising awareness and eradicating the stigma associated with mental health issues in sports to contribute to a more inclusive and understanding sporting community.
Although it started with swimming, the campaign also won support from football, tennis and rugby organisations.
Brown’s campaign was born out of concern for the high levels of stress and pressure young athletes face. According to forensic psychiatrist Kike Anunobi, young athletes can experience up to 600 times more stressors than their adult counterparts. This alarming statistic highlights the urgent need for intervention and support.
The campaign’s key components include an educational documentary on YouTube, an eBook, a pop-up banner and free mental health first aid courses. These resources are designed to provide young athletes, their families, and sports clubs with the tools and knowledge necessary to foster mental well-being.
The campaign’s co-founder, Andrea Brown, stated: “People often don’t understand what counts as a mental health issue. Crippling anxiety and throwing up become patterns, and patterns can be changed. Many are afraid to speak up for fear of being judged or getting it wrong. Through this campaign, we want to create an environment where clubs and parents know how to talk about mental health and young athletes feel supported.”
Jack Brown, who won three gold medals at the National Summer Championships, said: “I put a lot of work into my mental health before Nationals. I worked with my sports performance psychologist, Robin, at Mind Frame Performance, an ex-swimmer, which helped. My body was prepared physically, and I controlled my thoughts.”
The documentary features personal stories and insights from Olympic swimmers Jemma Jarvis and Edward Sinclair, psychiatrists, safeguarding consultants, and welfare officers. It aims to ask hard questions and shed light on young athletes’ mental health challenges. The documentary is available in a series of episodes.
To celebrate “World Mental Health Day” on 10th October, the campaign is releasing a new banner template and funding the first 10 banners to be placed in UK leisure centres, schools or sports clubs.
Andrea Brown added: “Saying it once is not enough. Young people need a visible reminder of support that says, “We care. Talk to us”. Organisations can download the free banner artwork here or post what they do to support mental health on any social media platform to win a free banner.”
The campaign has already garnered significant local and international attention. The family hopes the campaign encourages people to explore solutions, from speaking up at clubs to sports psychology and mental first aid courses. “Sport should always be fun. As soon as it isn’t any more, it’s time to ask why and look for help.”