Ahead of the game protocol: a multi-component, community sport-based program targeting prevention, promotion and early intervention for mental health among adolescent males
Vella, SA, Swann, C, Batterham, M, Boydell, KM, Eckermann, S, Fogarty, A, Hurley, D, Liddle, SK, Lonsdale, C, Miller, A, Noetel, M, Okely, AD, Sanders, T, Telenta, J & Deane, FP 2018, 'Ahead of the game protocol: a multi-component, community sport-based program targeting prevention, promotion and early intervention for mental health among adolescent males', BMC Public Health, vol. 18.
Background: There is a recognised need for targeted community-wide mental health strategies and interventions aimed specifically at prevention and early intervention in promoting mental health. Young males are a high need group who hold particularly negative attitudes towards mental health services, and these views are detrimental for early intervention and help-seeking. Organised sports provide a promising context to deliver community-wide mental health strategies and interventions to adolescent males. The aim of the Ahead of the Game program is to test the effectiveness of a multi-component, community-sport based program targeting prevention, promotion and early intervention for mental health among adolescent males.
Methods: The Ahead of the Game program will be implemented within a sample drawn from community sporting clubs and evaluated using a sample drawn from a matched control community. Four programs are proposed, including two targeting adolescents, one for parents, and one for sports coaches. One adolescent program aims to increase mental health literacy, intentions to seek and/or provide help for mental health, and to decrease stigmatising attitudes. The second adolescent program aims to increase resilience. The goal of the parent program is to increase parental mental health literacy and confidence to provide help. The coach program is intended to increase coaches’ supportive behaviours (e.g., autonomy supportive behaviours), and in turn facilitate high-quality motivation and wellbeing among adolescents. Programs will be complemented by a messaging campaign aimed at adolescents to enhance mental health literacy. The effects of the program on adolescent males’ psychological distress and wellbeing will also be explored.
Discussion: Organised sports represent a potentially engaging avenue to promote mental health and prevent the onset of mental health problems among adolescent males. The community-based design, with samples drawn from an intervention and a matched control community, enables evaluation of adolescent males’ incremental mental health literacy, help-seeking intentions, stigmatising attitudes, motivation, and resilience impacts from the multi-level, multi-component Ahead of the Game program. Notable risks to the study include self-selection bias, the non-randomised design, and the translational nature of the program. However, strengths include extensive community input, as well as the multi-level and multi-component design.