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FIFA launches campaign on mental health awareness


FIFA announces new changes that affect Premier League, La Liga

The world football body, FIFA, on Monday, launched an UN-backed campaign designed to raise awareness of potentially damaging mental health issues and encourage people everywhere to seek help when they need it.

The #ReachOut campaign has teamed up with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the influential Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to underscore how important it is to spot symptoms early of deteriorating mental health.

In a joint press release with WHO, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, said: “This campaign is very important in raising awareness about mental health conditions and encouraging a conversation which could save a life.

“In FIFA’s vision 2020-2023, we pledge our commitment to make football work for society and I thank the players and Ms. Enke, who have contributed to this important initiative.

“Depression and anxiety affect rising numbers of people worldwide and young people are among the most vulnerable. Having a conversation with family, friends or a healthcare professional can be key.

“FIFA is proud to launch this campaign, supported by WHO and ASEAN to encourage people to #ReachOut.”

The campaign features some of soccer’s most legendary players, including Aline, Vero Boquete, Cafu, Laura Georges, Luis García, Shabani Nonda, Patrizia Panico, Fara Williams and Walter Zenga.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is as important as ever to look after our mental and physical health,” said Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.

“WHO is delighted to support the #ReachOut campaign, spearheaded by FIFA, to encourage people to talk about their mental health.” also highlights the former Bolton Wanderers and Team GB forward, Marvin Sordell, and Sonny Pike who, at 14, was labelled the ‘next big thing’, about their experiences living and playing with depression.

Teresa Enke also discusses the pain of losing a loved one to suicide and her work with the Robert Enke Foundation.

Depression affects more than 260 million people in the world while around half of all mental health conditions start by the age of 14, according to the news release. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in young people aged 15 to 29.

Among active football players, 23 per cent report suffering from disturbed sleep, while nine per cent have reported depression and a further seven per cent, suffer from anxiety, the New York correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quotes the joint WHO and FIFA press release as saying.

As for retired players, these figures increase, with 28 per cent struggling to sleep and depression and anxiety affecting 13 per cent and 11 per cent respectively, said FIFA.

Working from home, unemployment, school closures and social isolation have affected people around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic; the challenges for people with mental health conditions, for whom access to treatment has, in many cases, been disrupted, are even greater.

The video awareness campaign features former greats, current players and special guests, who have lent their support to this mental health campaign, and at times sharing their lived experiences.

Secretary-General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi said, “Mental health and well-being are just as important as physical health and safety.

Under the Chairmanship of Brunei Darussalam, ASEAN is taking steps to advance cooperation with external partners on mental health, in order to provide the ASEAN Community with the necessary and appropriate mental health and psychosocial support services.”

Back in 2019, WHO and FIFA signed a four-year collaboration to promote healthy lifestyles globally through football.

The two organisations jointly launched a campaign to combat COVID-19 in March 2020, to share advice on effective measures to protect people, followed by the #BeActive campaign the following month, to encourage people to stay healthy at home, during the pandemic.

Next came the #SafeHome campaign launched to support those at risk from domestic violence.

More recently, the two organisations teamed up at the FIFA Club World Cup to #ACTogether to promote the need for fair access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, and to encourage people to keep practising life-saving, everyday public health measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and to protect health.