Ellen Ryan becomes AIS Mental Fitness ambassador

by Bowls Australia
on January 31, 2023

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has welcomed new research revealing more Australian high performance athletes are prioritising their mental health, including Right at Home Jackaroo Ellen Ryan.

A recent AIS Mental Health Audit showed 50 per cent of the 305 athletes who took part in the survey sought treatment in 2022, compared to just 39 per cent of participants in 2018. 

The biennial survey also showed positive improvement in the mental health and wellbeing of high performance support staff and coaches, with 61 per cent of those who responded sharing that their sport setting is a safe place to disclose mental health problems. 

Over the next six months, 22 high performance athletes, including Ryan, will become AIS Mental Fitness ambassadors, sharing their personal stories and mental health strategies with thousands of high school students across the country. 

The two-time Commonwealth Games champion reveals that seeking an athlete wellbeing and engagement manager has assisted her in many phases of her career, most notably after missing selection for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“In 2018 I just missed out on the team for the Commonwealth Games. The current team had been really successful internationally, and I just hadn’t been able to break in yet. For me I had worked so hard and sacrificed a lot. It made me not want to play anymore and I lost my confidence. 

“With the support from my Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement Manager, the AIS Mental Health Referral Network and the support from my close friends and family, I was able to overcome the challenges I faced.” 

AIS Acting Director Matti Clements is adamant that while it is fantastic to see more high performance athletes and staff prioritising their mental health, there are certainly many more who could benefit from the organisation’s programs.

“The Australian high performance sport system is united in the vision to win well, which means balancing ambitious performance goals with safe, fair, and supportive cultures and ensuring that our athletes, coaches and support staff win in all areas of life. 

“The AIS Mental Health Referral Network is a key part of creating that environment of sustainable success. It has provided free, confidential advice and world class services to more than thirteen hundred people since launching in 2018. 

“There is still work to be done. The AIS Mental Health Audit showed more than a quarter of the athletes experienced anxiety or depression in 2022 and our priority is to ensure everyone in the high performance sport system receives help when they need it.

“As part of the commitment to improving mental health and wellbeing, the AIS has once again partnered with the Black Dog Institute for the Mental Fitness Program, an initiative aimed at reducing rates of mental health issues among young Australians.”

Schools interested in having an AIS Mental Fitness athlete ambassadors visit can submit an online request here

Those wishing to know more about the AIS Mental Health Referral Network can click here

2023 AIS Mental Fitness Program athlete ambassadors: 

Aleisha Power, Hockey Australia, Perth 

Caitlin Parker, Combat Australia, Melbourne 

David Bryant, Triathlon Australia, Perth 

Elizabeth Simms, Water Polo Australia, Sydney 

Ellen Ryan, Bowls Australia, Goulburn, NSW 

Emily Hamilton-Smith, Hockey Australia, Melbourne 

Giorgia Patten, Rowing Australia, Sydney 

Jack Cleary, Rowing Australia, Canberra 

Jean van der Westhuyzen, Paddle Australia, Gold Coast 

Laetisha Scanlan, Shooting Australia, Melbourne 

Lily Alton Triggs, Rowing Australia, Brisbane 

Matthew Glaetzer, AUSCycling, Adelaide 

Mitchell Larkin, Swimming Australia, Brisbane 

Nathan Katz, Judo Australia, Melbourne 

Seve de Campo, Snow Australia, Canberra 

Sian Whittaker, Swimming Australia, Melbourne 

Sophie Jackson, Australian Sailing, Melbourne 

Stefanie Weiler, Volleyball Australia, Adelaide 

Tamsin Cook, Swimming Australia, Melbourne 

Tegan Reder, Swimming Australia, Perth 

Zana Evans, Snow Australia, Jindabyne 

Zoe Vorenas, Equestrian Australia, Melbourne 

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