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Athletes' access to, attitudes towards and experiences of help-seeking for mental health: a scoping review protocol.
Athletes are not immune to mental health issues but are less likely to seek help than non-athletes and experience barriers including lack of access to services, lack of knowledge as to how to access services and negative past experiences for help-seeking. Formal (eg, university counsellors, general practitioners and psychologists) and semi-formal (eg, academic tutor, sports coach and physiotherapist) sources of support provided in healthcare, the sport context and higher education are key places for athletes to seek help for mental health, and there is a need to synthesise the evidence on athletes' access, attitudes to and experiences of these services, to understand how to improve these services specific to athletes' mental health needs. This protocol outlines a scoping review that will be used to map the evidence, identify gaps in the literature and summarise findings on athletes' access, attitudes to and experiences of help-seeking for their mental health.

The methodological frameworks of Arksey and O'Malley (2005), Levac et al (2010) and the Joanna Briggs Institute (2020 and 2021) were used to inform this scoping review protocol alongside the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic review and Meta-Analysis Protocols checklist and published scoping review protocols within sport and health. The six stages of Arksey and O'Malley's (2005) framework have been used for this scoping review. The searches were conducted between 30 March 2022 and 3 April 2022 in the following databases: APA PsycINFO (via OVID), Embase (via Ovid), MEDLINE (via Ovid), APA PsycArticles Full Text (via OVID), Web of Science Core Collection, SPORTDiscus (via EBSCO), CINAHL (via EBSCO), Scopus, ProQuest (Education Database), ProQuest (Education Collection), ProQuest (Health & Medical Collection), ProQuest (Nursing & Allied Health database), ProQuest (Psychology Database), ProQuest (Public Health Database) and ProQuest (Sports Medicine & Education). The main inclusion criteria of this review are: papers that focus on past help-seeking behaviour, attitudes towards help-seeking and future behavioural intentions, papers that refer to formal and semi-formal sources of support and peer-reviewed literature, primary research articles, systematic or scoping reviews and interventions. During title and abstract screening and full-text review, at least two reviewers will be involved. Data to be extracted from studies includes: details of the study population, whether the paper focuses on formal and/or semi-formal sources of support and whether the focus is on access, attitudes or experiences to help-seeking for mental health.

The evidence will be mapped numerically and through content analysis to describe studies and highlight key concepts, themes and gaps in the literature. The published scoping review will be disseminated to relevant stakeholders and policymakers including those in healthcare, the sporting context and the higher education system. The resulting outputs will be in the form of both peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed publications (eg, multimedia in the form of a blog post and at conferences). The dissemination plan will be informed by patient and public involvement. Ethics approval was not required for this study.
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