Olympics-Australia institute sees near 80% spike in athletes seeking mental health support

MELBOURNE, April 23 (Reuters) - The Australian Institute of Sport, the country’s elite sports training centre, said on Friday it has recorded a nearly 80% spike in demand for its mental health referral network in the leadup to the Tokyo Olympics.

The AIS said there was a 79% increase in demand for the referral network at the start of 2021 compared to the same period last year.

The impact of COVID-19 was the primary or secondary issue in about 80% of the referrals but Games preparation and selection, work stress and general wellbeing were also among the key themes, the AIS said.

“It has been an extended wait for these Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and excitement is no doubt building as the Games countdown continues,” AIS Chief Executive Peter Conde said in a statement.

“It’s natural, however, that there will also be anxiety given the unique and complex preparation for these Games as well as the shifting environments here and abroad.”

The Olympics, which were postponed by a year due to the pandemic, start on July 23.

A Japanese cabinet minister said on Friday the country would declare “short and powerful” states of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and two other prefectures as the country struggles to contain a resurgent pandemic.

Tokyo reported 861 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the most since Jan. 29. (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)