Improving the mental health of Canadian athletes

Posted on Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Sprinter on the starting line

New mental health strategy for high performance sport in Canada emphasizes the impact of mental health on performance

OTTAWA, ON (July 14, 2021) – Today, the Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sport (CCMHS), in collaboration with the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network (COPSIN), Game Plan, and Own The Podium (OTP), launches the Mental Health Strategy for High Performance (HP) Sport in Canada. The primary aim of this strategy is to improve mental health outcomes for all Canadian HP athletes, coaches, and staff. This strategy was established in the wake of scientific evidence and athlete testimonials uncovering the importance of mental health in HP sport as well as the existing gaps in the Canadian health care and HP sport system.

Canada is now one of only two countries in the world that has a national mental health task force and a national strategy for high performance sport.

“Athletes who have good mental health are more likely to consistently perform at the highest levels and continue contributing to sport after retirement,” said CCMHS Executive Director and University of Ottawa professor, Dr. Natalie Durand-Bush. “This strategy will ensure that the sport system has a long-term plan and adequate funding to equip sport performers with appropriate knowledge, skills, and support to manage their mental health and thrive throughout their career.”

The strategy, created by stakeholders from the HP sport and mental health domains, includes the following 5 priorities:

  1. Leadership, stakeholder engagement, and communication
  2. Promotion of mental health
  3. Prevention of mental health challenges and mental illness
  4. Assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery
  5. Implementation, monitoring, and improvement of strategy.

Dr. Durand-Bush and PhD candidate Krista Van Slingerland, who currently serves as Game Plan’s Mental Health Manager, are lead authors of this strategy. They co-founded the CCMHS and Van Slingerland’s PhD work at the University of Ottawa has focused on the design, implementation, and evaluation of a collaborative sport-focused mental health care model for competitive and HP athletes.

“It’s very rewarding to see everyone’s hard work come to fruition and to know that Canadians are pioneers in the area of mental health and sport,” said Krista Van Slingerland. “The CCMHS and this national strategy are unique in the world. We’re thrilled to be making a positive difference in the lives of athletes and the sport community!”

“I am very proud that researchers from our Faculty have contributed to the development of a national mental health strategy for high performance sport and that their research has played a significant role in this important project. I am confident that their input and expertise will have a significant impact on Canadian athletes and sport in general in our country,” said Dr. Lucie Thibault, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa.



Durand-Bush, N., & Van Slingerland, K. (2021). Mental health strategy for high performance sport in Canada. The Mental Health Partner Group [Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sport, Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network, Game Plan, and Own The Podium].

About the CCMHS
The CCMHS is a registered charity supporting the mental health and performance of competitive and high-performance athletes and coaches. With Integrated Care, Research, and Community Engagement as its three pillars of success, the CCMHS is the first Centre of its kind in the world to offer collaborative sport-focused mental health care services and resources that are specifically designed and tested to help athletes and coaches achieve their performance goals while preserving their mental health.

For more information, visit or contact:
Dr. Natalie Durand-Bush, CCMHS Executive Director
E-mail:; Twitter: @ccmhs_ccsms 

University of Ottawa media contact:
Justine Boutet
Media Relations Officer
Cell: 613.762.2908

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