Sport’s fight with mental health: Olympic legends unite – The Voice Online

A GROUP of global sporting stars have united to underline the crisis in mental health among young people and how sport can play a role in reversing this.

As Olympians and athletes they have stood on podiums, enjoyed international acclaim and have taken home the most coveted prizes in their respective sports, but a group of global sporting stars have

Speaking at the inaugural Laureus Sport for Good Mental Health and Wellbeing Forum – an online event supported by EACT Jockey Club Active Community Programme – sports stars were joined by representatives from Laureus-supported mental health and wellbeing programmes from around the world, as well as global leaders from the mental health and wellbeing sector.

Laureus Olympic legends including 400m hurdling legend Edwin Moses, four-time Olympic gold medallist, Li Xiaopeng, China’s first winter gold medallist Yang Yang, and South African swimming stars Cameron van der Burgh and Natalie du Toit were joined by rugby stars Sean Fitzpatrick and Nolli Waterman with surfing legend Garrett McNamara.

Throughout the three-day Forum, participants heard how Covid-19 has had a catastrophic impact on the mental health and well-being of young people all over the world, as a result of lockdowns, restrictions and the loss of social interaction, sport and wider opportunities for self-development. 

The Forum showcased the pioneering Model City Hong Kong initiative, which is convening like-minded organisations with the goal of working together to use sport to make a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of young people in the region as restrictions ease and activities return.

The event also discussed the transformational mental health and wellbeing benefits of sport – particularly surfing, which will make an Olympic debut in Tokyo next year and swimming. Participants also heard about how sport is building resilience and tackling depression and anxiety in young people in Northern Ireland.

ICON: Edwin Moses in action

Laureus Academy Member Moses, who won Olympic 400m hurdling gold at the 1976 and 1982 Olympics, and was unbeaten for nine years, nine months and nine days, a streak of 122 consecutive race wins in the 400-metre hurdles, including 107 finals races, believes that sport is the perfect tool to support young people with mental health challenges:

“Globally, we have all been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but as one of our inspirational programme leaders rightly said during the Forum, young people in many communities around the world are also being impacted by mental health and wellbeing epidemics.

“At the highest level, the mental side of sport is crucial, but of most importance is the role sport can play in supporting young people with mental health challenges.

“At Laureus, the research is proving that the work we are supporting is making a difference to the mental health and wellbeing of disadvantaged young people, and we need to keep that up.”

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