Expanding the Reach for Mental Wellness for Better Performance in Sport & Life


It’s much more than just the specific sport; it’s about reinforcing positive attitude and lessons for life.

Mental Health vs. Mental Disorders

Mental Health

“Mental health is the emotional and spiritual resilience that enables us to enjoy life and survive pain, disappointment and sadness. It is a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in our own and other’s self worth”. (Health Education Authority, UK, 1997).

“Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”. (WHO, 2014)

From a child or teen’s point of view, mental health means…

  • I feel like I have things to live for
  • I feel that people care about me
  • I feel hopeful and good about the future
  • I feel in control of my life
  • I like myself
  • I’m satisfied, content or happy with life

Mental Illness

Mental illness is a term that describes a variety of emotional, thinking and behavioral problems that vary in intensity and duration, and may recur from time to time. Major mental illnesses include anxiety, mood, eating and psychotic disorders.

From a child or teen’s point of view, mental health problems (or mental illnesses) can mean some or all of the following:

  • I feel sad, irritable, worried or angry a lot
  • I don’t like myself
  • I feel powerless, and not in control of my life
  • I don’t feel good about the future
  • I feel that others don’t care about me

What Causes Mental Illness?

Many factors can contribute to mental illness; however the 2 major causes are genetics and the environment.


Can Mental Illness be Prevented?

Just like we can prevent physical health problems, we can also reduce our chances of developing mental health problems. We can do things to promote our physical health, by eating healthy food, exercising, not smoking or wearing a seatbelt. But even if we do all these things, we sometimes still get sick or hurt. It’s just the same for mental health.


Everyone has mental health regardless of whether or not they have mental illness.

Similar to physical health, we all have mental health. However our mental health is not a constant state; our mental health can range from feeling mentally healthy to mentally unhealthy.

The illustration demonstrates that someone living with a mental illness can still have optimal mental health if those symptoms are properly managed. For the majority of diagnoses, people who have mental illnesses can fully participate in society with little to no accommodations. Alternatively, someone who does not have a mental illness can have poor mental health, perhaps as a result of an unexpected event, poor coping skills and or supports, and a dip in resilience.

Mental Disorders

Occur in about 20% of the population, that’s 1 out of every 5 people in Canada! Many athletes will exhibit their difficulties in sport through problems with mood, behaviour or thinking. Early identification and treatment can lead to improved outcomes for the athletes.

What Are Mental Disorders?

Disturbance of brain functioning that causes problems with mood, behaviour or thinking.

  • May occur spontaneously, be severe in nature and lead to functional impairment (sport performance, social and interpersonal impairment).
  • They are prolonged and often require professional intervention.
  • Derive from brain dysfunctions, and are rarely, if ever caused by stress alone.

Mental Disorders are NOT:

The consequence of poor parenting or bad behaviour.

  • The result of personal weakness, weak willpower or deficits in personality.
  • Caused by poverty.

To promote our own mental health we can:

  • Get enough sleep, exercise and eat healthy food
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Spend time doing things that make us feel good
  • Be in touch with our feelings, and talk with close friends and family about how we feel
  • Be aware of our stress levels at home and work
  • Face stress and deal with it in a positive way
  • Try to see things from other’s point of view
  • Use healthy ways to solve problems