To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, the Scottish FA has worked with the UK football family on the publication of a new report on the progress made in supporting the mental health of football participants across the UK.
The report reaffirms the Scottish FA’s long-term commitment to the Mentally Healthy Football Declaration which was signed in 2020, aiming to lead and continue to promote positive change in football, and in society as a whole.
Along with other football bodies and leagues across the UK, the goal of the declaration, which is spearheaded by HRH The Duke of Cambridge, is to use the power of football to bring people together to keep up the conversation on mental health.
A simple conversation - talking and listening – can be the first step to better mental health and to making it okay to say for people to say they are not okay, while the theme of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is the impact of loneliness and the practical steps that can be taken to address it.
The Mentally Healthy Football Declaration is the legacy of the 2020 Heads Up campaign, which aimed to kickstart the discussion around mental health in football and normalise what can be a difficult subject.
Among the declaration’s key aims were to lead from the top to create a mentally healthy culture and to embed mental health within our existing policies and practices, while another objective was to support clubs and organisations with guidance, toolkits and resources.
In the period following the launch of the campaign and subsequent declaration, the Covid-19 pandemic struck and there is little doubt over the impact, both long and short-term, that the virus will have on issues around mental health.
Since the declaration, as detailed in the report, the Scottish FA published its first ever Mental Health Action Plan to help end the stigma around mental health and create an environment for people to talk openly.
The plan, which has governance, education, awareness and signposting as its four key pillars, will run for four years, working closely with partners to build on the outstanding work already being done within the game.
The Scottish FA, which has long supported various mental health projects, also created the world’s first Mental Health and Wellbeing National League for people living with various mental health conditions – an initiative which provides a nurturing and safe environment to play football.
In addition to this, the Scottish FA's ‘Support within Sport’ campaign, which provides confidential and immediate help to those within the game, has continued after being launched in 2016 - following a research project that was undertaken by the Hampden Sports Clinic in conjunction with UEFA to gain a better understanding of the mental health challenges of senior professional players in Scotland.
The goal remains to keep the conversation on mental health going, to build on work underway and to enhance the positive impact in all parts of football.
The report can be read HERE.