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Governing bodies, leagues and organisations from across UK football vowed to take a ‘team approach’ to the challenge, at the end of an unprecedented 19/20 season, which was put on pause in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown.
The declaration has been signed by CEOs and chairs from across football, including The FA, Premier League, English Football League and FA Women’s Championship – and is backed by footballers and managers including Harry Kane, Danny Rose, Andy Robertson, Steph Houghton and Gareth Southgate.
“Not only will this benefit future generations who work and play within the game, but it will also send a clear message to football’s millions of fans about the importance of mental health,” Prince William, president of the FA, said in a video marking the signing of the Mentally Healthy Football Declaration.
“That is a legacy we can all be proud of, following a season we will never forget.”
The industry has collectively vowed to strive towards four key principles to build and support ‘mentally healthy clubs’ at every level of the game, with the mantra: spot, speak, support and signpost.
Mental health declined substantially after the first month of Covid-19 lockdown, according to a survey of UK households published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.
Organisations will now form a UK-wide mental health implementation group for the 20/21 season, working towards a collective ‘game plan’ to ensure the mental health of players, staff, managers, coaches and officials is prioritised across the sector. This will include rolling out mental health training and education to all clubs.
The announcement comes ahead of this weekend’s ‘Heads Up’ FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea, which will also highlight mental health issues.
Godric Smith, chair of the Heads Up campaign, said: “There has been fantastic leadership from every part of football on mental health this season and today’s declaration cements the huge culture change underway in the game.
“It is a first of its kind and an important moment for sport and society more widely. It comes at a time when prioritising our mental health and supporting each other has never mattered more.”
What does spot, speak, support and signpost mean?
1. Spot. Building an understanding of mental health to enabled people to spot the signs that they, a team-mate or colleague might be facing challenges and need particular help or support.
2. Speak. Promoting an environment where people feel more comfortable speaking about their mental health, and where speaking out is seen as a strength, rather than weakness.
3. Support. Encouraging players and staff to look after and improve their own mental health, just as they do their physical health, and providing them with the tools and support to do so.
4. Signpost. Knowing where help is available and making it clear how people can access support both within and outside of their organisation.
Interesting in reading more about mental health in sport? Check out HuffPost UK’s Head In The Game series which launched earlier this year.
Useful websites and helplines
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.