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French athletes at the Paris Olympics will be receiving better protection for their mental health, with a focus on combatting online harassment and cyberbullying. This initiative is being led by France’s Sports Minister and Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, who are working on ways to ensure mental health is looked after at the upcoming games. A study conducted by France’s National Institute of Sport, Expertise, and Performance revealed that 15% of athletes have shown signs of high anxiety or depression, with risk factors including pressure from fans, expectations from sponsors, fear of failure, and constant exposure on social networks.

In response to these findings, plans are in place to implement tools to help athletes and the general public cope with the risks of online harassment and cyberbullying. A new “Santé Mentale” (Mental Health) section will be added to the website from June, providing athletes with practical advice and a self-evaluation questionnaire. They will also have access to a psychologist recommended by INSEP, with these services continuing after the Games and being available to coaching staff as well. INSEP will also work with other French sports organizations to raise awareness of mental health risks among athletes.

In addition to the online resources, the Olympic Village in Saint-Denis will have a safeguarding officer and welfare officers onsite during the Games to offer assistance to athletes and staff experiencing mental health difficulties. The safeguarding officer will also act as a designated person of trust who can alert social network platforms in case of serious online problems. The French Tennis Federation and the French soccer league are already using an online application called Bodyguard to give athletes better online protection, including screening their private messages if desired.

Furthermore, discussions will be held with social network platforms to further address the risks faced by athletes on these platforms. The aim is to provide athletes with a safe and supportive environment, especially during challenging times or moments of doubt. The profession of Mental Coach is also being developed to support athletes with their mental preparation and performance improvement. With these initiatives, French athletes will have access to better resources and support for their mental health at the Paris Olympics and beyond.

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