Mental health concerns and parental help-seeking in elite youth sport: A systematic review


In elite youth sport, athletes are exposed to a number of potential challenges and concerns, such as the potential for injury, competitive pressure from other stakeholders, and engaging in risky behaviours. Provided that coaches often have a difficult time detecting and monitoring their athletes’ mental health, parents may have an important role for their athletes’ help-seeking intentions and behaviours. The purpose of this review is to understand the mental health concerns of elite youth athletes and parents’ role in help-seeking for mental health concerns. Following PRISMA guidelines, we conducted a systematic search using four databases to locate empirical literature that report parents’ role in their young elite athletes’ mental health concerns. A total of 1956 articles were retrieved and screened, and the resulting included articles were then subject to data extraction and analysis. Information related to study aims, participant demographics, operationalization of elite youth sport, methodological approaches, study findings, and limitations were of analytic interest. Included articles predominantly explored adjacent mental health topics, highlighting the lack of explicit investigations of parental help-seeking in elite youth sport. Additionally, included articles seldomly used theory or guiding frameworks to support their investigations. The limited scope and volume of included articles highlight the nascency of the field, while also highlighting an opportunity to leverage currently available frameworks in developmental psychology to study parental help-seeking with elite youth athletes. Potential frameworks and ways forward for the field are discussed.