Bayern, Benfica & Man Utd launch cross-club mental health initiative

Man Utd Head of Academy Nick Cox and club captain Harry Maguire

Man Utd Head of Academy Nick Cox and club captain Harry Maguire

BAYERN MUNICH, Benfica and Manchester United have teamed up to launch a cross-club Mental Health Awareness Month for players, coaches and staff.

Under the motto ‘Promoting Mental Health & Wellbeing in Football, Together’, the three clubs will aim to raise awareness, encourage conversation and highlight the work already going on in this area.

At United, there will be a range of activities, including sports psychology workshops, practical training sessions, round-table discussions and branding at matches.

As part of this, players and staff will regularly wear the Mental Health Foundation’s green ribbon throughout March to raise awareness and support good mental health for all.

Each week there will be a focus on a different theme at United, adopting the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ recommended by Mind (pictured), with sessions being held on connecting, taking notice, being active, giving back and continuous learning.

First-team players and club legends will address various age groups to discuss personal experiences and take questions on how they built resilience throughout their careers.

Resources and expertise will be shared between the club and the book, ‘Soul, beyond the athlete,’ by Jonathan Harding, will be distributed.

United captain Harry Maguire is the Ambassador for the Mental Health Awareness Month and he has been directly participating in sessions and “actively encouraging conversation" around the subject of mental health across the club.

United’s Head of Academy, Nick Cox, said: “We are really proud of the extensive work that we do in supporting the mental health of our players and staff.

“Our Mental Health Awareness Month enables the Academy to build on, and highlight, the key messages of our wider enrichment programme that takes place throughout the season.

“The mental health of our players is just as important as their physical and technical development. We therefore continue to play our part in taking active measures to ensure that they are encouraged to talk about mental health to help lift the stigma associated with it.

“The Awareness Month, which has been carefully designed over the past year, will support our players, staff and Academy parents to take a proactive approach in taking care of their own mental health.

“The groups will also directly learn the signs that someone may be struggling and the support mechanisms that are in place that they can then access.

“There are clear performance benefits for the players, and we also hope that fans will engage with the campaign so that the Academy can play its part in getting everyone to promote mental health and wellbeing together.”

Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn added: "Mental health is an important factor in finding and mastering one's own journey. In the development of our youngsters at FC Bayern Campus, the focus has always been on the individual.

“That's why it's important to us to create an environment in which young athletes are not only supported as much as possible and challenged on the pitch, but also feel valued and comfortable as human beings."

MIND: FIVE WAYS TO WELLBEING

1. Connect

There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to - and valued by - other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world. It’s clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health for people of all ages.

2. Be active

Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being.

3. Take notice

Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ can strengthen and broaden awareness. Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities.

4. Learn

Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the opportunity to engage in work or educational activities particularly helps to lift older people out of depression.

5. Give

Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of wellbeing research. Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.

READ MORE: Mind - Five Ways to Wellbeing

Tatiana Ferreira, Co-ordinator of Psychology at Benfica, said: "Some studies say that players, particularly soccer players, have a higher prevalence of mental disorder compared to the non-athletic population.

“Psychology and the entire structure of the club intend to create an environment that minimises this impact on our players. “This partnership intends to create moments of reflection among the three clubs.”

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