Wednesday, May 29, 2024

PCA: There’s no protection from anxiety

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Photo Credit: Professional Cricketers’ Association

  • Mental health statistics in cricket show the high prevalence of anxiety
  • Anxiety cases almost doubled from 17% to 33% amongst those facing mental health challenges
  • Helmets distributed to all professional dressing rooms with helpline number
  • Tom Lace: “The PCA were incredibly helpful and supportive throughout my time in cricket.”

Following the release of the latest mental health stats in cricket, the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) and Sporting Chance have, today, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, announced the launch of a thought-provoking campaign that addresses the rising rates of anxiety in professional cricket.

With the aim to raise awareness, reduce stigma and provide crucial support to players facing mental health challenges, the campaign aims to prompt players to pause and reflect on themselves and their teammates while also signposting to the support available through the PCA Confidential Helpline.

In partnership with leading equipment makers Masuri, the PCA and Sporting Chance have produced eye-catching helmets displaying the slogan “There’s no protection from anxiety”, complemented by the 24/7 Confidential Helpline number. The PCA launched its helpline in 2005 and has been administered by Sporting Chance’s mental health support services since 2018.

In 2023, Sporting Chance provided support to over 100 individuals through their partnership with the PCA. This included 49 current players, of which a significant 49% of these individuals reported anxiety as a primary concern. This prevalence rate amongst cricketers surpasses that of any other sport, notably doubling the prevalence in professional football, and highlights the unique challenges of the sport and the need for easily accessible services for players to address concerns.

Since 2020, the level of anxiety as a primary presenting issue has almost doubled, with early statistics showing that anxiety is still the highest presenting mental health concern in 2024.

Overall, provision of talking therapy has risen by 11% since 2020 with significant increases in support in the women’s game over this period, now at 32% of all referrals.

These stats come one week after the PCA revealed 62% of current male players noted the current playing schedule causes them concern from a mental wellbeing perspective, with many citing the inability to get away from the game during periods of the season.

With the PCA Confidential Helpline funded by the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, the vivid teal colour that has become synonymous with the players’ charity has coated the helmets which succinctly compare the physical and emotional risks associated with cricket. The helmets have been distributed directly into every professional cricket changing room ahead of the 2024 summer as a permanent reminder of the prevalence of the condition.

A talking point across all PCA pre-season meetings, the props are supported by an education programme and social media campaign, the initiative is part of the PCA and Sporting Chance’s commitment to create an environment where players feel empowered to seek help without hesitation or judgement and have access to a safe and confidential space to address poor mental health.

The motivation for this campaign followed data released last year that showed anxiety to be a prevalent issue among players. Dr Luz Locatelli, a therapist on Sporting Chance’s network describes anxiety as “a persistent state of mind in response to pressure, fear and perceived threat.”

Dr Luz explains how this is particularly significant in a sporting context “Anxiety can become a problem if we start consistently worrying about mistakes within training and competition and focus purely on outcomes. Then, we stop analysing the process, coaches’ decisions and internal competition leading to negative perfectionism. External triggers such as family issues could also trigger our anxiety driving us out of the physiological and cognitive window of tolerance.”

PCA Managing Director of Member Services, Ian Thomas, said:

“It’s clear from the statistics that anxiety is a real burden on the cricket landscape at present, which is why we wanted to do something impactful and visual for players to take note through the ‘There’s no protection from anxiety’ campaign with Sporting Chance.

“The 2023 statistics are just the tip of the iceberg and support a recent mental health study between the ECB and PCA, we know there will be more players who need help and also players have the option to seek help through their employer, the NHS or privately, meaning the true figure could be much higher.

“The PCA remains committed to this crucial area in our members lives, and are embarking on a wellbeing education programme over the next 12 months. It will include players talking to players and aiming to develop coping strategies and resilience.”

Sporting Chance CEO, Colin Bland, said:

“Sporting Chance has worked with professional athletes for over 20 years – it is great to see a player union proactively embracing the mental health challenges of sport and speaks volumes about the PCA’s commitment to player welfare.”

Former Gloucestershire player Tom Lace, now working at Sporting Chance, said:

“As someone who struggled at certain points in my career with intense feelings of anxiety, I think this is such a positive initiative between the PCA and Sporting Chance. The PCA were incredibly helpful and supportive throughout my time in cricket, and to have an organisation that proactively champions the wellbeing of its players by signposting to support is invaluable.

“Cricket is unique in so many ways in terms of the length of games, time away from home, and the individual nature of being at the top of your mark or taking guard, so providing players with the tools to manage this is key.”

Lace is one of many PCA members who has openly spoken about mental health concerns in the last 12 months and signifies a positive change in destigmatising open conversation between players and staff. Middlesex’s Ethan Bamber and PCA’s Community Spirit winner as part of the Futures Awards is a fitting example of this, providing multiple interviews and blogs talking about his experiences of living with anxiety, working with Sporting Chance and Opening Up Cricket.

For immediate support, PCA members can contact the Sporting Chance helpline at 07780008877. Additionally, players can fill out the online contact form on Sporting Chance’s website at https://www.sportingchanceclinic.com/copy-of-get-support to connect with the triage team and arrange a call back.

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