Recommendations relating to Sports, Community Groups and Volunteering

Sport, interest groups and volunteering are all great ways to create a sense of connectedness and participation in our community. Organisations or groups that host these activities should be kind, inclusive and open to the diverse needs of anyone who wishes to take part. Unfortunately, people affected by complex mental health issues often report exclusion from these groups and say many such groups lack understanding about their experiences.

Survey participants indicated that unfair treatment and exclusion may have been driven by other group members’ lack of understanding about ways in which complex mental health issues can affect a person’s capacity to participate. Some respondents reported that their concerns around disclosure and associated stigma and discrimination had stopped them from joining such groups. These experiences were amplified in rural and remote communities. Conversely, stories about positive experiences as a result of participation in sports, community groups and volunteering were reported when compassion, understanding and connection underpinned other members’ responses to participants’ experiences of complex mental health issues. 


"The more I am open and talk about my illness, it lets others in the community know that I have an understanding of mental illness, and it creates positive discussions with them. Conversations which may save lives, break down stigma, and the change we want to see in this space. Others around me then become aware of what my specific needs are and are circumstances that may be triggering for me."    

– Our Turn to Speak participant, Western Australia    

Inclusion of people affected by complex mental health across the fabric of our society not only strengthens diversity and inclusion, but is also a powerful anti-stigma strategy in itself. While some sporting codes have supported the disclosure of high prevalence mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, further work is required to ensure awareness raising across sport and community groups is inclusive of the full continuum of mental health experiences.


Recommendations for action 

  1. Encourage influential and elite sporting codes to improve their complex mental health literacy by raising awareness about the full range of mental health experiences to their players, supporters, networks and the general public. 
  2. Increase inclusion of lived experience storytelling in communications and events to improve community group members’ understanding and inclusion of people living with complex mental health issues.
  3. Promote participation of people with complex mental health issues in sport by raising awareness about these experiences and celebrating sporting leaders living with complex mental health issues.