Thursday 23 September 2021, 14:00

FIFA Pledge to Boost Mental Health Awareness

  • FIFA among the first to pledge to European Commission’s HealthyLifeStyle4All initiative

  • Belgium head coach Roberto Martínez leads European version of #ReachOut

  • #ReachOut campaign is focal point of President’s pledge

Mental health awareness was made a key priority at this year’s European Commission Week of Sport opening day, with FIFA reinforcing its commitment to increase understanding of mental health conditions and how to start a potentially life-saving conversation.

This year, to mark the launch of the European Commission’s HealthyLifeStyle4All initiative, FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, pledged to support people in Europe and beyond in looking after their mental well-being through #ReachOut, FIFA’s mental health awareness campaign, created in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and supported by the European Commission.

“As we celebrate the European Week of Sport, we do so in recognition of the enormous benefits sports bring to our communities and to our lives,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said. “It is a privilege for FIFA to be among the first to sign the pledge for the HealthyLifeStyle4All initiative. As part of our pledge, FIFA is today launching the European version of its mental health campaign #ReachOut, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and with the support of the European Commission.”

President Infantino added, “FIFA has used its voice, along with relevant figures in the football world and those courageous enough to share their lived experiences, to support those at risk of suffering from, or living with, mental health conditions.”

One of those big names in football is Roberto Martínez, who has discussed the importance of looking after the mental health of players, from children to elite stars.

“It is a good moment now to understand that behind the footballer is a human being and a human being will have the same issues that any human being has,” the Belgian national team head coach told FIFA. “We all know that a football dressing room can be an area in which you’re not allowed to feel weak, feel down or feel that maybe, you’re not in the right mindset.

“I do feel that mental health is an issue that we all face, we need to be aware, and we need to be brave enough to speak up, to look for help. It is a big area that we in the Belgian Federation are aware of. It’s very important, the responsibility that we have as sports institutions, to create environments where every player, everyone that is associated with the sport, can feel free, and can feel supported to speak up.”

Having supported the campaign from the outset, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, applauded FIFA’s commitment to raising awareness of mental health conditions, through #ReachOut.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the global burden of mental health conditions, and highlighted the need for concerted action to prevent and treat them. There is still far too much misunderstanding, misinformation and misconception about mental health, and too much stigma, which only makes things worse and prevents people with mental health conditions from getting the care they need. The World Health Organization is pleased to be collaborating with FIFA on the #ReachOut campaign to increase understanding of mental health conditions, how they can be prevented and treated, and to encourage people who are struggling to seek help – because there is no health without mental health.”

Every year, the European Week of Sport promotes the active promotion of inclusion in sport. Active lifestyles reap numerous benefits from improving public health to increasing physical and mental wellbeing in individuals.

Commenting on the initiative, Mariya Gabriel, the EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Football is a universal language, with a unique power to convey messages across the planet. In the context of the European Week of Sport, I am confident that this joint campaign together with FIFA and WHO will raise awareness of the importance of mental well-being. Caring for mental and physical health are both parts of a healthy lifestyle.”

Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, added: “Today, we join forces with FIFA as part of our work on health promotion, to encourage people to speak out and to let them know that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them. With the new and ambitious EU4Health Programme and Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, as key parts of our strong European Health Union, we will help support healthier lives and improve the well-being of our citizens, and the HealthyLifeStyle4All initiative will contribute to this work.”