FIFA launches #ReachOut campaign for mental health

Morocco will be the host country for the 2022 Africa Women's Cup of Nations, the Confederation of African Football has announced. /VCG

World football body, FIFA has launched a United Nations -backed campaign to raise awareness of mental health conditions, named #ReachOut.

The Campaign is 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 Organization (WHO), and the influential Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to underscore how important it is to spot symptoms of deteriorating mental health early.

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. Teresa Enke, who have contributed to this important initiative.”

Ms. Teresa Enke is the wife to former Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke, who was hit by a train on 10 November 2009, not far from his home.

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.

In his suicide note, Enke, who played for Borussia Monchengladbach, Benfica, Barcelona and Fenerbahce during his career, asked his family and doctors to forgive him.

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.

“There is scientific proof that all my efforts have achieved something since my husband’s suicide in 2009. The acceptance of this illness is there. The team now includes psychologists and psychiatrists, and psychological training is offered to young athletes involved in competitive sport,” she explained.

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

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

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

Among active football players, 23% report suffering from disturbed sleep, while 9% have reported depression and a further 7%, suffer from anxiety.

Among retired players, these figures increase, with 28% struggling to sleep and depression and anxiety affecting 13% and 11% respectively, said FIFA.

(With input from UN News and FIFA)

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