What works for mental health in sporting teams?

Mental health in elite and community sport is increasingly recognised as important, and something that sporting clubs and organisations need to be aware of and responsive to.

Over recent years, there has been a proliferation in the number of programs that aim to support mental health among sportspeople, which creates challenges when determining which programs to implement in a given sports setting. In light of this, in 2020, the AFL commissioned Orygen and the University of Melbourne to develop an evidence guide that reviewed available evidence regarding programs designed to support mental health in team-based sports. A comprehensive guide was developed by Orygen’s Elite Sport and Mental Health team and provided to the AFL.

In 2022, the AFL requested an updated version of the evidence guide, given the rapid increase in research surrounding mental health in sport and development of programs for supporting mental health in sport. This guide is an updated version of the 2020 evidence guide. It is based on research evidence available on 14th September 2022 (when the updated search was conducted). The guide has been designed to help sporting teams, clubs, and organisations make informed choices about the implementation of mental health programs, based on available evidence about the effectiveness and safety of existing programs.

Throughout this evidence guide, a star rating system has been developed so readers can quickly identify the level of evidence for each program, as supported by currently available research. Programs that are awarded three gold stars have sufficient evidence to be recommended for use. Summaries of each program’s aims, design, and research findings are also provided.