To mark Mental Health Awareness Week (13th May), Sport Northern Ireland will be releasing a series of videos featuring Northern Ireland athletes who have battled with mental health. These videos are blunt. The videos are to raise awareness and understanding of mental health and support the NI Wellbeing in Sport Action Plan – a six year commitment between Sport NI, the PHA and key partners. The aim of this plan is to improve and support the mental health and wellbeing for people involved in sport across Northern Ireland.

Partners of the NI Wellbeing in Sport Action Plan are committed to:

  1. Engage, promote and support positive mental health and wellbeing
  2. Build capacity and capability around mental health in sports clubs
  3. Identify and inspire help seekingbehaviours. Reduce stigma and discrimination
  4. Invest and implement resources of people, time and money

It is critical that valued athletes, both female and male, are supported to maintain strong mental health, to build resilience against destructive behaviours such as gambling, alcohol and drug addictions and to know where and when to seek help in a caring environment. It is equally important that our athletes are also supported with day to day mental health struggles such as recovering from injury, relegation, poor performance during a game or missing out on qualification times etc. Sport Northern Ireland is driven to developing a sustainable culture in the sporting system that supports the whole athlete and the wider sporting community and most importantly wants to ensure that everyone involved in sport continue to enjoy the positive benefits of participating in their game.

As part of this initiative Mental Health Ambassadors within the sport were identified and willingly shared their story to inspire others to seek help (if required.) Athletes who shared their stories are two time Olympic medalist and two time Commonwealth Games boxing gold medalist Paddy Barnes, Commonwealth games silver medalist Carly McNaul and seven times winner (Club & County) and two times All-star former Armagh player Oisin McConville. All three Ambassadors have battled with their own mental health. We learn from the videos how they have come out the other side. Video case studies will be released during Mental Health Awareness week. Sport Northern Ireland in partnership with the PHA has engaged with Action Mental Health, Aware and Sporting Chance to offer programmes to help improve and support mental health and wellbeing for people involved in sport. Please contact Marie-Therese Higgins at wellbeinginsport@sportni.netfor further information.