January 27, 2021
Mental Health modules should be embedded in sporting education – Mark Ward TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, has today published results of a ‘Mental Health in Sports’ survey.

Teachta Ward conducted the survey in late last year alongside Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport, Chris Andrews TD.

The survey invited sports organisations and groups to submit their experiences of early prevention, early intervention and coach education regarding mental health.

Over 93% of participants believe that mental health modules should be part of their coaching education.

Teachta Ward said:

“Having worked for many years in front line mental health and addiction services, in addition to volunteering as a coach/mentor with local soccer and GAA clubs, I have a keen interest in this area.

“Alongside my colleague Chris Andrews TD, I launched a mental health in sports survey to inform us on how we can improve mental health awareness and skills for coaches involved with sports clubs across the country.

“The survey attracted volunteers, coaches and athletes from a wide range of sports sectors such as FAI, Basketball, GAA, Hiking, Irish Athletic boxing Association, Special Olympics Ireland Softball, Karate and Athletics.

“Results show 93.5% of participants believe that mental health modules should be embedded in National Governing Bodies’ coach education pathways. This would benefit sporting organisations and athletes alike.

“95% think that implementing suicide awareness programmes would benefit coaches, volunteers, students and extended staff of people working with sportspersons.

“Participation in sports is well documented to be beneficial for our mental health and over all wellbeing. There is a definite link between the positive benefits of physical activity on mental health.

“Despite the benefits of participating in sports, sportspersons are not immune to developing a mental health illness, nor protected from mental health issues such as depression, which has become more prevalent in modern sport.

“Information received from Sports Ireland and through parliamentary questions informed me that there are 1.7 million people who participate in sports across the state, with 430,000 volunteers in 12,000 different clubs.

“It is welcome that 488 people involved in sports completed suicide prevention training provided by the National Office for Suicide Prevention since 2017. However more needs to be done.

“As concerns around mental health across the spectrum have increased, it has highlighted the lack of supports and resources available to some sport organisations.

“Currently, there is no co-ordinated approach by the various sporting bodies under Sports Ireland. Each individual organisation takes their own approach on developing mental health awareness.

“What is needed is that each club has at least one trained mental health officer who is a point of contact within the club. We also want to improve the mental health education for all volunteers and extended staff of people working in the sports sector.

“This can be achieved by the mandatory inclusion of mental health modules in coach education pathways of National Governing Bodies like the FAI and GAA.”

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