Taking mental health seriously within cricket!

Over the past decade, numerous high profile cricket players have come forward regarding their struggles with common mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression. The Professional Cricketers Association has acted as a safeguarding body for past, present and future first class cricketers in the UK and Wales since 1967. More recently, the PCA have also developed a help and wellbeing programme for their members. This has useful resources and information on a range of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression to addiction. The PCA’s ‘Mind matters’ campaign includes a number of different tutorials and personal stories from professional cricketers.

The Professional Cricketers Association is committed to raising awareness on key health and wellbeing issues that affect our membership. There are numerous factors that could play a part in the rising number of cricketers experiencing a mental health condition. These tend to include playing away from home, the pressures that come from a demanding top-level sport and even the game itself. Professional cricketers can spend as much as half a year away from their friends and family on tour. Since cricket is a game played over a long period of time, it also gives the players time (likely too much time) to reflect on mistakes and losses they made in the previous game. Depression and suicide is found more often in professionals who play Cricket, in comparison to any other sport.

“Cricket is such a frustrating game. If you're a top order batsmen, you can be playing well, but then things start going wrong. And you start worrying about your place in the team being under threat and then your contract being under threat. Cricket buggers up your mind.”

- Graeme Fowler, retired English Cricketer and Mental health ambassador for the PCA.

Given that mental health problems in cricket is on the rise, the PCA have recently partnered with Thrive: Feel Stress Free to support players in prevention, detection and treatment of common mental health conditions. Thrive: Feel Stress Free is an app created and developed by UK Psychologists and Psychiatrists using clinically proven, evidence-based techniques. It has also been shown to significantly accelerate depression recovery time, working the same as some anti-depressants without the side effects. There are three main aspects of Thrive: Feel Stress Free, including prevention, detection and treatment. The app included 24/7 support and is available when and where the players may need it.

The prevention: The app encourages support seeking behaviour and detects issues before they
become too severe. Thrive is not for the 1 in 4 struggling with their mental wellbeing, it is for the 4 in 4 of us that need to care for our mental wellbeing and cope with life's daily stresses. The exercises within the app, mood tracking and systems all prevent mental health conditions occurring.

The detection: The detection aspect is done by using PHQ9/GAD7 quiz to analyse a users mental wellbeing, from this daily screen the app can determine if a user is suffering with anxiety and or depression. Users will be then recommended a personalised plan within the app and directed to the right support within the club to improve their mental wellbeing.

The treatment: The app consists of many forms of treatment, from mindfulness/breathing techniques to distraction therapy. The four relaxation techniques are calm breathing, meditation, deep muscle relaxation and applied relaxation - meaning there should be something for everyone.

Each of the techniques are evidence-based, clinically proven and used in real life therapy to help manage common mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and mild depression.

The app is available to all members of the PCA and it also includes a direct link to their own helpline in the support box. The PCA’s helpline is run by Cognacity and gives the members direct access to their welfare manager as and when they need to speak to them. It also includes a 24/7 counselling helpline. Now, players can access the help they need from both the PCA and the also the support Thrive offer!

Bronwyn SouthrenComment