Dr Paul Gorczynski
Dr Denise Hill
Dr. Clare Wilson
The mental health of elite athletes has recently garnered increased visibility through the media, athlete biographies and academic literature (Uphill et al., 2016). While a recent systematic review concluded the prevalence of mental ill-health among elite athletes may be comparable to non-athletes (Rice et al., 2016), it was also noted that this conclusion remained equivocal due to a paucity of high quality research. Accordingly, there remains the need for further empirical work to examine the prevalence and determinants of mental health issues within elite athletes.
Elite rugby union players are under considerable pressure from the demands of training/competing, the probability/consequence of injuries, and the scrutiny associated with high-level performance. In addition, with concussion becoming a common feature of rugby union, and associated with depression, anxiety and mood disorders, as well as suicide (Kerr et al., 2012; 2014), it is unsurprising that rugby union players have emerged as a group of concern with regards to mental health and wellbeing (Guttebarge et al., 2015). Furthermore, the mental health of rugby coaches and referees has received no research attention.
An established determinant of mental health and wellbeing is mental health literacy (MHL), which comprises: i) knowledge of mental health problems; ii) promotion of positive mental health; and ii) knowledge of help-seeking behaviours (Wei et al., 2013). Accordingly, an individual with high levels of MHL recognises the signs/symptoms of mental ill-health, and engages in the help-seeking behaviours to enable the maintenance of wellbeing (Griffiths et al., 2016). While limited, there is also an emerging evidence-base to suggest that interventions designed to increase an individual’s MHL can subsequently enhance their mental wellbeing (Griffiths et al., 2016).
To date, research has yet to examine directly the level of MHL within the athlete population in rugby union, or explore its relationship with mental ill-health and athlete wellbeing. Furthermore, no research has explored the mental health or mental health literacy of coaches or referees, essential figures in rugby who can assist athletes by identifying mental health symptoms, addressing mental illness stigma, and promoting help seeking behaviours. It is therefore of significant value for researchers to explore the level and determinants of MHL among male, elite rugby union players, coaches, and referees. Thereafter, this information can inform the development of evidence-based interventions that may increase their MHL and enhance wellbeing within elite rugby. Accordingly, the aims of this programme of work are threefold:
i) to ascertain the level of MHL and wellbeing among male, elite rugby union players, coaches, and referees within England;
ii) to qualitatively explore the psycho-social determinants of and barriers to MHL and wellbeing among male, elite rugby union players, coaches, and referees within England; and
iii) to evaluate an evidence-based intervention that is designed to enhance the MHL and wellbeing of male, elite rugby union players, coaches, and referees within England.
The successful applicant will develop expertise in sport and exercise psychology.
Despite the funding for the studentship being limited to the part-time fees for the first 3 years, we will also ensure that all project costs are covered. Whilst not guaranteed, we will also endeavour to provide part-time hourly paid teaching and research assistant opportunities, as and when they are available, to supplement any other income. The successful candidate will also receive full access to the Graduate School Development Programme, relevant research training, and the internal qualifications that enable applications for Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. Finally, all department-wide development activities will be made available to the successful candidate and where appropriate, supporting budgetary requirements.
• A taught Masters degree in a relevant discipline, involving a dissertation of standard length written in English in the relevant subject area with a minimum of a merit profile: 60% overall module average and a minimum of a 60% dissertation mark;
In addition to at least one of the following:
• Experience conducting research in mental health;
• Experience in sport or exercise psychology;
• Experience working with athletes, coaches, and teams;
Funded By University of Portsmouth. Closing Date 23 June 2017. Interview date 14 July 2017.
Interview Date(s) 14th July
Contact Details For enquiries please contact Dr Paul Gorczynski: firstname.lastname@example.org
To apply please use our standard application forms and follow the instructions given under the ‘Research Degrees’ heading on the following webpages: http://www.port.ac.uk/application-fees-and-funding/applying-postgraduate/#rd.