The partnership will push the Mental Fitness Program, designed to help young people manage their mental health and improve their general wellbeing, with 27 current and former elite athletes set to deliver mental wellbeing presentations, both in-person and online at high schools across Australia.
Mental Fitness Program presenter and Commonwealth Games gold medallist boxer, Harry Garside, said his personal experience with mental health education at school was instrumental.
“I wanted to get involved in the Mental Fitness Program because I know first-hand that these workshops can have a significant impact and change the course of a young person’s life,” Garside said.
“As an elite athlete, I want to role model behaviour that promotes self-care and positive psychology to help improve the wellbeing and resilience of young Australians,” he said.
AIS director athlete wellbeing and engagement, Matti Clements, said it is important for young people to learn the essential skills to look after their mental health, with Black Dog Institute research indicating over 75% of mental health issues develop before the age of 25.
“Like adults, young people can face numerous challenges in the modern world and the impacts of COVID-19 on schooling and everyday life has added that extra layer of pressure,” Clements said.
“Now more than ever it is vital that young people are taught how to look after their mental wellbeing, and the AIS is thrilled to partner with a renowned research leaders such as Black Dog Institute to deliver this critical program to high school students across Australia,” she said.
Black Dog Institute director and chief scientist, Helen Christensen, said the role sport plays in mental wellbeing is vital.
“We are absolutely delighted to partner with the AIS to deliver the Mental Fitness Program in Australian high schools, at a city, state, and national level,” Christensen said.
“Young people are more likely to take up mental health and wellbeing training if these programs are delivered by a person with whom they can resonate.
“The earlier these programs are offered, the more likely the effects will be long lasting,” she said. The Mental Fitness Program is now one of three community engagement initiatives offered to AIS athletes, with the already existing Lifeline Community Custodians and Share a Yarn programs, allowing athletes to work with their communities to boost health and wellbeing.