NOT JUST A BALL GAME': THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SPORT AND SUICIDE
 
Hopes, L.M. and Chambers, S.D., University of Ballarat, Australia
 
Previous research has suggested that physical activity has a beneficial effect on mental and emotional health. Additional to the physiological benefits that exercise provides, participation in sport may also serve to reduce stress, enhance coping skills, and in the case of team sports, provide social support networks and feelings of connectedness. Hence, it has been purported that participation in sport or exercise may act as a preventive measure against suicide. The present study examined possible cognitive mechanisms of this link by assessing suicide attitudes in three groups; those engaging in individual sporting pursuits, those engaging in team sporting pursuits, and those not actively engaging in any sporting pursuits. Results from 120 participants showed that those who participated in sport had significantly more negative attitudes towards suicide. Specifically, those who participated in sport were less accepting of suicide, regarded suicidal acts as unnecessary and unjustified, showed less empathy for suicidal individuals, and considered suicidal individuals to be mentally unhealthy. Results confirm the cognitive benefits of exercise and suggest that participation in sport acts as a protective factor against suicide.