FIFA’s #ReachOut Programme Marks World Mental Health Day
Today marks World Mental Health Day, 10 October, and the conclusion of #ReachOut, FIFA’s campaign designed to raise awareness of mental health conditions. The campaign was supported by the World Health Organization, ASEAN, the European Commission, FIFA member associations, FIFA Legends, footballers and campaign contributors including Teresa Enke, FIFA’s Fan Movement and the FIFAe community. FIFA.com takes a look back at #ReachOut.
Roberto Martinez – Belgium men’s national team head coach
Roberto Martinez, who is helping lead FIFA’s #ReachOut mental health campaign, coaches players who, on the face of it, look to have it all. Yet, he knows first-hand how different players may feel beneath the surface.
Martinez played in an era in which “it wasn't seen as being right to speak up and show a ‘weakness’”. “The feeling,” he recalled, “was that everyone should be superheroes.”
Marvin Sordell – English former Bolton Wanderers and Watford striker
Marvin Sordell had always loved his football but, just as he gained major success playing in the Premier League and for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics, the pressure to perform became too much.
“It was the most difficult period in my career. I’ve never experienced that level of pressure or expectation before,” said Sordell, who is now dedicated to raising awareness of depression.
Teresa Enke – Wife of Robert Enke, who took his own life in 2009
One of the most terrible tragedies in the history of German football took place on 10 November 2009, when, not far from his home, goalkeeper Robert Enke was hit by a train.
Only later did it become apparent that the 32-year-old Germany international, capped eight times for his country, had undergone several rounds of psychiatric treatment for depression since 2003.
Robert’s wife Teresa Enke, who set up the Robert Enke Foundation in 2010, told FIFA that awareness around mental health conditions has greatly improved, since the tragedy.
“People are addressing the issue and finally acknowledging just how important mental health is. And yes, it can happen to anyone.”
Walter Zenga – Former Italy men’s national team goalkeeper
Walter Zenga, Italy’s goalkeeper at two FIFA World Cups, has urged people to be especially wary of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the world adapts to major lifestyle changes.
Crucial to this is not be too afraid to listen.
Fara Williams – Former England women’s national team player
With 172 appearances, Fara Williams is England’s most-capped international of all time and, until recently, still had big hopes and objectives for her future. In March last year, however, the 37-year-old was diagnosed with a kidney condition and the treatment’s effects upon her physical – and mental – health sadly forced her decision to retire.
“It got to a point where I nearly broke just before Christmas, six months into the illness, I accepted that I was ill and mentally really struggling,” admitted Williams.
“It took me a while, and on reflection I wish I had accepted it earlier.”
Luis Garcia - Former Atletico, Liverpool, Barcelona and Spain attacker
Advice from Liverpool's then assistant coach Pako Ayestaran during the 2005-06 season - that he should see a sports psychologist - made a lasting impact on Luis Garcia.
"It's about trying to talk and getting relief from some of the [negative] thoughts you might be having or things that happened to you that day,” Garcia said.
Laura Georges – France Football Federation Secretary General and former France women’s national team player
Laura Georges, a two-time UEFA Women’s Champions League winner as a player and now FFF Secretary General, believes that football could show greater compassion and understanding towards players who struggle with symptoms of poor mental health or find processing their emotions in such a high-pressure environment difficult.
“I think that the pressure in women’s football is steadily increasing,” Georges told FIFA.com.
Sonny Pike – Football prodigy who put mental health first
‘Wonderkid’ Sonny Pike was one of the best young footballers in England, who soared to fame after top clubs had spotted his insatiable goal-scoring talent in the youth ranks.
A move to Ajax followed but so with it did expectation.
“I thought about taking my own life, and actually went somewhere, to think about doing that. But on the way back from that, I decided that it was going to be football, or my mental health. And football had to come second.”
FIFA joins European Commission’s HealthyLifeStyle4All initiative
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.
“It is a privilege for FIFA to be among the first to sign the pledge for the HealthyLifeStyle4All initiative,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
Befrienders Worldwide Befrienders Worldwide provides help and support to those in distress or suicidal, around the world. Visit https://www.befrienders.org/ and https://www.befrienders.org/other-helpline-organisations to find support in your country.
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Support for professional football players can be accessed through FIFPRO.