Mental Health Implementation – Committee Communique

Q4 Update – January 2024

Welcome back! We hope happiness, health, and success fill your year ahead. With 2024 being an Olympic and Paralympic year, we hope to proactively address mental health needs; the Mental Health Implementation Committee (MHIC) and the system supporters will play a key role in achieving that. The MHIC comprises representatives from partner organizations within the high-performance sport ecosystem who have a role in improving mental health outcomes for Canada’s high-performance athletes, coaches, and support staff.

The purpose of the MHIC is to lead the implementation of the Mental Health Strategy for High-Performance Sport in Canada (“the Strategy”). Responsibilities of the MHIC include:

  • Provide strategic oversight of specific programs and initiatives associated with implementing the ‘Strategy.’
  • Align initiatives and funding to optimize the deployment of resources to athletes and coaches.
  • Appoint sub-committees for specific areas in the Strategy requiring expert-based input and guidance in developing programs or processes.
  • Monitor and evaluate the implementation of priorities identified in the Strategy.
  • Communicate with key stakeholders within Canada regarding new initiatives and provide regular updates on current work related to the Strategy.
  • Engage other agencies within Canada or globally to understand partnership trends or opportunities.

Every quarter, starting today, the MHIC will post a communique to update stakeholders on work related to implementing the Strategy.

Members of the MHIC

  • Cara Button (she/her), Chair, Senior Manager at Game Plan (
  • Dr. Mike Wilkinson (he/him), Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at the Canadian Olympic Committee (
  • Dr. Andy Van Neutegem (he/him), Vice President at Performance Sciences, Research, and Innovation (VP PRSI), Own the Podium (
  • Michelle Killins (she/her), Director of Paralympic System and Services at the Canadian Paralympic Committee (
  • Kirsten Barnes (she/her), COPSIN Lead, Director, Health and Performance Services at Canadian Sport Institute Pacific (CSIP) (
  • Wayne Lomas (he/him), NSO Representative, Associate Director of High Performance & Para Swimming National Coach at Swimming Canada (
  • Kristin Henry (she/her; interim) on behalf of Erin Wilson (she/her) President, AthletesCAN (
  • Lee Allison Clark (she/her), Manager of Mental Health at Game Plan (

Activities to Date

The MHIC has held three meetings so far, with subsequent meetings planned every six weeks, barring exceptions. These gatherings have been instrumental in delineating the roles each participant will play to ensure the proper implementation of the Mental Health Strategy throughout the system. Illustrated in the graphic above, each representative is tasked with disseminating pertinent discussions from these meetings to their respective networks. This includes communicating how various aspects of the implementation might impact them or the athletes they represent. Looking ahead, the committee will collaboratively execute the Strategy, incorporating recommendations and establishing subcommittees, task groups, expert forums, and service provider forums to garner expert input and support.

Mental Health Resources Update

In December 2023, Game Plan, COC, CPC, COPSIN, and OTP secured additional funding from Sport Canada to further the implementation of the Mental Health Strategy. This funding will be allocated towards subsidized mental health support for athletes and coaches (up to $2500 per year) for an additional fiscal year. Moreover, it will contribute to the development of new educational resources such as workshops, workbooks, peer support groups, and mindfulness programs. Additionally, a Culture, Wellness, and Mental Health Summit is in the pipeline, with details set to be revealed soon.

The Mental Health Network and the Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sport

When engaging with athletes, a consistent theme emerges — a desire for confidential, direct-to-athlete care outside of their NSO. The Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sport (CCMHS) is a third party that manages this service for us. These statistics were provided by CCMHS and are derived from the data of clients who have provided consent to share stats in aggregate form. Data of those who have not provided consent were omitted.

From January 1st to December 31st, 2023, a total of 414 clients (athletes/coaches) were seen. This is a 34% increase from the previous calendar year.

Top Reasons for Referral (self-reported):

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • General Mental Health
  • Transition
  • Burnout

Service User Information

  • Coaches made up 5% of referrals

Age Groups

  • 16-18: 10%
  • 19-21: 14%
  • 25 – 29: 21%
  • 22-25: 22%
  • 30+: 33%

Sport Type

  • Individual sport: 60%
  • Team Sport 38%
  • Able Bodied: 63%
  • Para Sport: 20%

Considering that we are in an Olympic and Paralympic year, there is a likelihood of heightened demand for mental health support. The peaks in activity, such as qualification events, instances of injuries, and the periods during and after the Games, often introduce challenges that were previously manageable but are now encroaching upon daily life or sports endeavours. To address this, we strongly advise contacting all athletes, coaches, and Games-facing staff to ascertain their mental health needs and ensure they receive the necessary support. If you feel hesitant or uncomfortable taking on this responsibility, rest assured that your COPSIN-affiliated Mental Health Lead is available to assist you or, if needed, handle these communications on your behalf.

*embed video* Accessing Mental Health Support

We encourage carded and national-team athletes and coaches to use the support Game Plan offers (individual mental health action plans, education, and $2500 yearly for subsidized mental health support) and support for staff and organizations. Contact your COPSIN-affiliated Game Plan Advisor or Mental Health Lead for more information. If you don’t have an affiliation with COPSIN or have any questions, please contact Lee Allison Clark (

Game Plan Advisors and Mental Health Leads

CSI Pacific: Candice Drouin (she/her), Game Plan Advisor | Lauren McBride (she/her), Mental Health Lead (

CSI Calgary: Amy Van Buskirk (she/her), Game Plan Advisor | Clare Fewster (she/her), Mental Health Lead (

CSC Saskatchewan: Lisa Hoffart (she/her), Game Plan Advisor (

CSC Manitoba: Kevin Kristjanson (he/him), Mental Health Lead (

CSI Ontario: Dominique Bosshart (she/her), Game Plan Advisor | Heather Wheeler (she/her), Mental Health Lead (

INS (Quebec): Sophie Brassard (she/her), Game Plan Advisor | New Mental Health Lead coming soon!

CSI Atlantic: Sarah Morris (she/her), Game Plan Advisor | Lauren March-Knickle (she/her), Mental Health Lead (

Games Mental Health Leads

Dr. Karen MacNeill (she/her), Paris 2024 Olympics

Lisa Hoffart (she/her), Paris 2024 Olympics

Susan Cockle (she/her), Paris 2024 Paralympics


Here’s to a tremendous 2024! The next MHIC meeting will occur in February, with our next Communique coming in April.

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