Reducing the risk of athlete suicide in and through sport

Last updated: 25 May 2018 Topics: Working with our partners

This briefing on reducing the risk of suicide in and through sport (PDF) provides guidance on how the steps sports organisations can take to reduce the risk of suicide in young athletes. 

Author: NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU)
Published: 2018

Signs of risk

Young people who may be experiencing mental health issues and may be at risk of taking their own lives, might display changes in behaviour, physical appearance or in performance. Some of these changes might include:

  • becoming isolated or dropping out of activities
  • seeming confused or distracted and unable to complete tasks they usually would with ease
  • a sudden halt in performance development
  • neglecting their appearance including, personal hygiene, or clothing
  • persistent physical complaints like chronic pain
  • sudden or extreme weight loss or weight gain
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • feeling like a failure and being very self-critical
  • decreased interest in making plans for the future
  • a suicide attempt or act of self-harm

Remember that young people face a range of difficult issues throughout their adolescence. Whilst some young people may develop mental health issues and raise more serious concerns, most young people will at times display some of the behaviours and feelings above as part of their natural development.

The key factor is in knowing and recognising these signs and indicators in young people and being able to open a channel of communication to allow them to seek help and advice where needed.

Further information

For more information about what sports organisations can do to promote good mental health and wellbeing, take a look at our guidance page.

The NSPCC also has guidance on mental health and suicidal thoughts in children and young people

Support services for young people

Information and support for young people on a range of issues
tel: 0800 11 11

The Mix
Information, support and listening for people under 25
tel: 0808 808 4994 (24 hours)

24 hour confidential listening and support for anyone who needs it
tel: 116 123

Young Minds
Information and sign-posting to mental health support for young people and parents

Support services for professionals

NSPCC Helpline
Information and guidance for professionals about issues effecting young people
tel: 0808 800 5000

Information and advice on mental health as well as local support services
0300 500 0927

Mind – Sport, activity and mental health pages
Information mental health, awareness training and advice

English Institute of Sport
Works with elite athletes to improve sporting performance and athlete wellbeing

Download the briefing (PDF)