September 16, 2019
 In Wellbeing of Olympic Athletes

Country: Japan
Delegate Name: Allison Bennett

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic games opened up a deeper conversation on the wellbeing and mental health of Olympic athletes. There was a survey that comprised three sub-sections (psychological strain, participant characteristics and a depression module) concerning mental health, performance issues and concerns over the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics was sent to 102 Olympic athletes. Out of these 102, 85 athletes, representing 11 Olympic sports enrolled in this survey. These athletes showed suffering from psychological uncertainty associated with the 2020 Olympic games. This survey further opened the conversation that sports federations should provide ongoing wellbeing support to athletes.
In 2011 the development of sports became the responsibility of the Japanese government due to the enactment of the Basic Act on Sport, the landscape of Japanese high-performance sports has dramatically changed at all levels. However, there had been little discussion about athlete mental health and wellbeing until the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games being postponed. In 2021, it was reported that only 14 articles were available on athletic wellbeing in the Japanese language up to 2019. Gradually more focus is being directed towards the mental wellbeing of athletes as researchers began arguing for the need of support for athlete’s mental health. When Japanese swimmers began returning to their sport, the Japanese Swimming Federation (JASF) equipped athletes with a summary of steps in the interest of keeping athletes physically and mentally healthy.
At the start of 2020, an international group of researchers and experts held a meeting to conduct a systematic review and establish a consensus on definitions of mental health and wellbeing. Mental health was seen as a dynamic state of psychological, physical and social wellbeing in accordance with the World Health Organization guidelines. A holistic model adapted to the Japanese context and social support needed at the system were discussed as well. In order to adapt this model to a Japanese context, the next step will be to understand the needs of these athletes and nation governing bodies of sports and collect insights from them. With these collected insights the Japanese High Performance Sports Center (HPSC) will implement a new management system of high performance athlete mental health and well-being, which will serve as a point of contact and a place to receive help in Japan.

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