Mental Health in Equestrian Sport Awareness and Action program

The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing found that in any one year 20% of Australians between 16 and 85 years old had a common mental illness and this increases to 26% in 16-24-year-olds. 

Two common illnesses were found to be anxiety and depressive disorders.

Mental health is characterised by emotional wellbeing and resilience to stress. Mentally healthy individuals are able to cope with daily stresses and fully participate in family, work, sport, leisure, and community activities. A mental disorder is a diagnosable illness that affects a person’s thinking, emotional state, and behaviour, and disrupts his/her ability to carry out normal daily activities or engage in satisfying personal relationships.

Understanding the causes of mental/emotional stress, learning coping skills, and developing emotional and social support networks can help any individual build resilience and deal with stressful situations. Athletes are regularly challenged by stressful events related to their sport participation, and these may occur on top of daily life stresses. One’s ability to ‘bounce back’ to a normal state of functioning, following exposure to stress, is a predictor of good mental health. 

Key Messages 

  1. Physical activity stimulates a biochemical response in the brain that influences one’s mental state. Regular physical activity, in appropriate amounts, contributes to personal wellbeing.
  2. Sport, recreation, and physical activity can promote and encourage social interaction, which supports good mental health.
  3. Athletes are subjected to sport specific stressors, as well as stress from everyday life. Good mental health is characterised by emotional wellbeing and resilience to all sources of stress.
  4. An athlete's state of mind has a significant impact on their athletic performance and vice versa.
  5. Diagnosis and care of an athlete’s mental health concerns must be considered within the context of sport and life.


Coaches can promote mental health and wellbeing by:

  • Encouraging and supporting athletes to have a healthy life balance.
  • Reducing the stigma around seeking help when there is a problem.
  • Understanding stressors faced by athletes, and the impact they can have on mental health and sporting performance.
  • Seeking the help of a professional in supporting those athletes with known mental health problems.

The Australian Institute of Sport

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) developed a Mental Health in Sport (MHS) Awareness and Action program to help provide high-performance sport staff with knowledge and skills to identify and respond to someone with poor mental health. Participants learn the 4-R model:

  • How to RECOGNIZE symptoms of poor mental health in others
  • Techniques to REACH OUT and support someone in distress
  • How to REFER to a mental health professional and to recognize when this is necessary
  • Ways to REMAIN SUPPORTIVE over time 

Equestrian Australia

Equestrian Australia wants to boost the awareness of common issues that arise in the sporting community where there is currently a lack of information and education provided around mental health. 

EA is going to develop an online workshop to inform and educate equestrian community members about these issues and provide this as an additional elective on the coaching pathway in 2018.



Telephone services

Online mental health resources

  • E-couch - E-couch is a free and fun online program providing evidence-based information about emotional problems (including depression and anxiety disorders) and teaches strategies that may help you to prevent problems and understand yourself better. E-couch is not appropriate for crisis assistance.
  • The moodGYM - moodGYM is a free, fun, and interactive program providing information to help you identify and overcome problem emotions related to depression and teaches you how to develop good coping skills for the future.moodGYMis not appropriate for crisis assistance.