Flinders helps launch Mental Fitness Charter

A new charter addressing mental fitness for South Australia’s sport and recreation industry has been officially launched by the Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, the Hon Katrine Hildyard MP, at an event hosted by Flinders University earlier this month.

Built around four key pillars – Organisational Commitment, Knowledge and Understanding, Raising Awareness and Reducing Stigma and Building Capacity – the Mental Fitness Charter aims empower the industry to identify, address and support the mental health of its communities.

Developed by Sports SA in collaboration with the Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation, several Flinders University staff played a key role in the Charter’s development, including Professor Murray Drummond, Dr Sam Elliott, Professor Phillip Slee and Professor Tracey Wade.

Flinders’ Sport, Health, Activity, Performance and Exercise (SHAPE) Research Centre hosted the launch event and will evaluate the Charter’s uptake across the community.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Director of the SHAPE Research Centre Professor Murray Drummond said, “the Mental Fitness Charter is the first of its kind in Australia so South Australia is leading the way when it comes to embedding and supporting mental health in sporting clubs. The launch of this Charter really is a moment of national significance as many key organisations across Australia and globally are looking to follow SA’s lead”.

Members of the Flinders research team leading the way in mental health and sport research with John Mannion (pictured far left).

Sport SA CEO Leah Cassidy explained the origins of the charter. “We were approached by the then Mental Health Commissioner, Chris Burns, who was concerned about the prevalence of suicide and mental health issues in sporting clubs. A number of forums were held, and a working group convened. The forums told us that volunteers were faced with situations beyond their scope and confidence, and needed information and support.

“Industry felt a mental fitness charter of ideas proposed to sports clubs should be considered, in addition to codes of conduct and regular duties for coaches. We are thrilled to be able to deliver what our industry was calling for.”

Breakthrough Executive Director and Mental Health Commissioner John Mannion added, “the statistics surrounding suicide and mental illness throughout sporting clubs are alarming. Breakthrough is proud to be working alongside Sport SA to commit to helping change those statistics by increasing mental health literacy and support within sporting communities.

“We want club staff and volunteers to be empowered to support those experiencing a mental health problem or mental health crisis by giving them the tools to develop an understanding of the early warning signs, first aid strategies and normalising the conversations about mental health.”

The launch event on Friday 9 December was opened by the Hon Katrine Hildyard, who shared personal stories emphasising the Charter’s importance.

Other event highlights included former AFL player Daniel Menzel providing the audience with eye-opening experiences about the physical and psychological injuries across a +1400-day injury stretch, as well as gripping panel discussion with John Mannion, sportswoman Nicole Calder, Olympian-turned-psychologist Dr Amber Halliday and Michelle Roberts.

Guests also heard from Flinders’ Dr Sam Elliott, presenting on behalf of the research team about the latest research insights on mental health and community sport.

You can read the Mental Fitness Charter here.

HDR students from the SHAPE Research Centre at the Charter launch
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