Australian Institute of Sport launches program about athletes and mental health


“Athletes go through quite a lot of hardship just being who we are. We train hard, we live our life on the edge. We all have struggles,” Chapman said.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve had anything too gnarly. I’ve lost my major sponsor and I’ve been working as a carpenter for two years full time and I’m in debt up to my ears trying to travel and chase this dream and I’m trying to be a good human and run a business.

‘Since I lost my sponsor I’ve been able to flip my life around’. Cooper Chapman in 2015.

“But my outlook on life has changed a lot. Instead of letting losing my sponsor and having to go to work make me feel sorry for myself, I thought ‘screw that, I’m going to take it on the chin and start doing stuff for other people.

“It’s made me an extremely happy person. It’s given me purpose in life and having a program like this is just an extra platform to spread my message of positivity and awareness of mental health.”

The AIS has only had a division dedicated to athlete wellbeing for the past year. Psychologist Matti Clements is its director and put enough runs on the board in her first year in charge that the organisation was promised $7 million over the next two years to further their work.

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The money will fund a national referral network of 27 psychologists around Australia who will be available for all Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games athletes to access free of charge.

Clements said psychiatrists and neuropsychologists would soon be added to the service, on top of the 20 athlete wellbeing managers attached to the high performance programs of 20 different sports.

“We want early intervention and the only way you have early intervention is to decrease stigma and increase skills about having conversations,” she said.

“That’s having conversations not just with your team mate but also with yourself.”

The Lifeline partnership extends that conversation to the wider community, trading on the pulling power of the country’s top athletes to deliver an important message.

“Sharing our stories lets people know that it’s not just them that are dealing with hardships. We have awesome lives, we travel the world and do something we love, so we don’t have much to complain about,” he admits.

“But mental health doesn’t discriminate, there’s so many ways you can be affected, small and large. I’m trying to learn to enjoy the journey.”

Lifeline 131 114, MensLine 1300 789 978, beyondblue 1300 224 636

Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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