The Irish FA has confirmed that almost 600 participants from across grassroots football in Northern Ireland have completed its bespoke mental health programme, Ahead of the Game, in the past year.
The figure has been revealed as sporting organisations across the Northern Ireland and the UK mark Mental Health Awareness Week.
The Irish FA has delivered 35 workshops – more than ever before in one calendar year – with a total of 578 people taking part. The workshops are delivered in grassroots settings through to elite boys’ and girls’ academies.
The work is supported by UEFA HatTrick funding with the help of two tutors, Joe Donnelly and Kenny Greenhill, and other valued partners such as Inspire Wellbeing and Sports Chaplaincy UK as well as over 20 Mental Health Champions, ambassadors from across the game who support this work.
Mental Health Awareness Week is the annual event every May which highlights the importance of achieving good mental health for all. Each year there is a key theme to raise awareness of a particular mental health topic with this year the focus being on anxiety.
The Irish FA has also joined forces with its fellow Home Nations FAs, the Premier League (PL), the English Football League (EFL), the League Managers’ Association (LMA) and the Professional Game Match Officials (PGMOL), confirming that the collective is united in a “commitment to supporting everyone involved in the game in looking after their mental health”.
“Encouraging more discussion around our mental health has rightly been given more prominence in recent years,” said IFA CEO Patrick Nelson.
“Whilst this is one dedicated week, promoting good mental health is something we do every day at the Irish FA and I am delighted to be joining leading football organisations across these isles to support Mental Health Awareness Week again this year.”
“Good mental health is crucial and I’m a true believer that football can help,” added IFA President Conrad Kirkwood.
“The sense of belonging which it delivers is an obvious positive influence. I pay tribute to the players, coaches, physios, officials and volunteers that are providing this in their own communities, not just during Mental Health Awareness Week but week in, week out.”