DOI: 10.1024/2674-0052/a000066 ISSN: 2674-0052

2Steps4Health project: Promotion of mental health in junior professional sports

Johanna Kaiser, Nadja Walter, Lisa Oppitz, Barbara Braun, Julian Schmitz

Abstract: Introduction: This brief report and study protocol emphasizes the growing recognition of the importance of mental health in young elite athletes, particularly during the vulnerable phase of adolescence, where bio-psycho-social demands are significant. It presents the #blinded for peer-review# project, which aims to reduce the risk of mental illness and enhance well-being by addressing stressors and empowering young elite athletes with coping strategies. Methods: 2Steps4Health is a stepped-care prevention program for young elite athletes aged 12–21 and comprises two levels (universal and indicated prevention). The evaluation study employs a longitudinal (quasi-) randomized intervention study design with a waiting control group, and it aims to equip participants with psychological skills to enhance overall well-being and resilience. The effectiveness of the program will be assessed using empirically validated questionnaires, with specific hypotheses for both prevention levels regarding life satisfaction, stress, recovery, self-esteem, and internalizing symptoms. Results: Available data will be analyzed using univariate repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVAs), allowing for both within and between group comparisons. Conclusion: With the help of its two prevention levels, 2Steps4Health combines clinical psychology approaches for symptom reduction with positive psychology for flourishing. Anticipated challenges include tight schedules and mental health stigma, addressed by offering group programs during training times and fostering support through connections with authorities. The project emphasizes the need for additional prevention actions targeting institutional factors influencing the mental health of young elite athletes.

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