Mental health literacy practices within Australian football league next generation academy clubs: An exploratory study

Publication Name

International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching


Purpose: To explore and describe the extent and quality of Mental Health Literacy (MHL) resources, information and education currently available within the Australian Football League (AFL) Next Generation Academy (NGA) programs and identify limitations/gaps in existing MHL practices within these programs. Methods: An exploratory mixed-method descriptive design was utilised in two phases. Phase One consisted of a researcher led MHL audit of publicly available data associated with each NGA program. Phase Two included a web-based open-ended questionnaire distributed to key NGA personnel and focused on mental health practices within the programs. Descriptive statistics were used to present Phase One data and thematic analysis was utilised in Phase Two. Results: In Phase One, the total mean standardised score for resources on mental health, raising awareness on mental health and culture of support within the clubs were 47% (SD = 16, range 18–89), 51% (SD = 23, range 0–77) and 61% (SD = 27, range of 9–97). In Phase Two, eight participants responded to the questionnaire (44% response rate). Three themes emerged from the thematic analysis: 1) current initiatives and resources within the club; 2) training, education and support for staff; 3) the gender divide. Conclusion: Mainstream mental health resources do exist within the AFL and there is some support within the professional league. However, these are not effectively tailored for youth elite athletes, nor have they been implemented into NGA programs despite the willingness of staff in supporting the mental health of these athletes.

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