Sporting Stars Turn The Spotlight On Mental Health

Stars who shone on the athletics track, the football field, and the cricket pitch joined an expert on sports psychology recently to discuss the impact that sport can have on mental health, hosted by the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), in an online event now available on the WISH YouTube Channel.

Mental Health & Sport: The Challenge of Balancing Risk With Reward features a panel discussion where participants share first-hand experiences of the pressures that elite-level sport creates, and the toll it can take amid the trophies, medals, and glory. It comes as the importance of maintaining mental wellbeing is thrown into even sharper focus by the strain that COVID-19 has placed on individuals and societies worldwide.

The panelists brought together by the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) were double Olympic gold medal-winning athlete Dame Kelly Holmes, former Liverpool FC and England footballer Robbie Fowler, ex-Pakistan cricket captain Wasim Akram, and Professor Claudia Reardon, a psychiatrist specializing in sports at the University of Wisconsin and co-chair of the International Olympic Committee’s working group on mental health and elite athletes.

WISH 2020 – the latest edition of WISH’s biannual international health summit, which will take place virtually from November 15-19 – will include a focus on sport and health, as well as on mental health. “Sport has emerged as a field needing special focus in terms of mental health, with many prominent athletes raising public awareness by speaking out about their own battles, both while competing and after retiring,” said Sultana Afdhal, CEO of WISH.

“The virtual discussion provided the perfect opportunity to highlight key issues surrounding sport and mental health ahead of WISH’s November summit.”

Fowler – whose 19-year football career included 128 goals in 266 games for Liverpool, and 26 caps for England – has spoken about the challenges that fame poses for young footballers, and of the need for sports stars to be more open about discussing their mental health with teammates. “The mental health of sportsmen and women is an issue that has rightly started to receive a lot more attention recently, so I’m happy to be part of the WISH panel discussion and to hear other people’s opinions on the topic.”

Since an athletics career that featured 12 major championship medals ended, Dame Kelly has opened up about her personal mental health struggles and established a charity that uses the skills of world-class athletes to help hard-to-reach young people fulfil their potential. Cricketing legend turned commentator and coach Akram, regarded as one of the best bowlers of all time, took over 900 international wickets and, for six years, was captain of the Pakistan national side – often described as one of the most highly-pressurized jobs in sport. The panel discussion was moderated by BBC Sport and BBC News presenter Dan Walker, who recently hosted a conversation on mental health and football with HRH the Duke of Cambridge. It was followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer session, with viewers having the chance to pose their questions to the speakers.

Virtual WISH 2020 will offer the opportunity to watch this panel discussion, alongside many other past and present WISH discussions, in two dedicated features within the summit, a cinema and time-shifted replay channel. These offerings will allow attendees across different time zones around the world to engage with the summit, ensuring that no sessions are missed.

To view the virtual discussion, please click here

To register to attend virtual WISH 2020 click here.