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‘Heads Up’ campaign launched by the Football Association and Heads Together, uses football to change the conversation on mental health

Words by Smiley Team

The Culture Secretary and The Duke of Cambridge joined some of Britain’s biggest sport stars to discuss the issue of mental health across UK sport last month as part of a virtual roundtable. 


Oliver Dowden and The Duke were joined by a plethora of British sporting greats who between them have accumulated more than 400 caps for their country, 17 gold medals at Olympic or Paralympic Games, seven grand slams, and won a Davis Cup and Rugby World Cup.


Those who attended included former Arsenal and Lionesses footballer Alex Scott, England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning fly half Jonny Wilkinson, and the most successful female Paralympians and Winter Olympians of all time, Dame Sarah Storey and Lizzy Yarnold.

Many of these speakers reflected on their own personal experiences and how maintaining good mental health helped them be better athletes


Drawing upon their careers and work in sport, broadcasting and charities, the discussion was an opportunity to share perspectives on the barriers that have previously prevented some sportspeople from identifying and accessing the support they need. There was also a discussion around the generational shift on attitudes towards mental health and the positive outlook for future sport talent. 


They also discussed how elite sport could lead the way in supporting the mental and physical health of the wider population, as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased and those who cannot work from home return to their workplaces where it is safe to do so.


Other guests included Seven-time grand slam doubles winner and Davis Cup champion Jamie Murray, multi-medal winning Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, former Tottenham Hotspur captain and England international Ledley King, and Team GB and England international hockey player and Olympic gold medallist Maddie Hinch also joined the video call alongside representatives from UK Sport, Sport England and mental health charity Mind 


The ‘Heads Up’ campaign, which was launched by the Football Association (FA) and Heads Together and is spearheaded by The Duke of Cambridge, uses the popularity of football to change the conversation on mental health and signpost support for those in need. 


The Duke of Cambridge said “Through the Heads Up campaign, the football community has come together to do its part in driving lasting change by encouraging people to open up about their mental wellbeing, at the same time as embedding a mentally healthy culture across the sport. I believe that there is more we can do collectively to ensure this is replicated across all of sport” 


The Duke reiterated the importance of embedding a mentally healthy culture within sport, explaining that in due course, the football family will be coming together around a joint commitment to making football a mentally healthy environment for all, as a legacy of the Heads Up campaign.

Following on from the panel, the FA announced that this season’s FA Cup Final, provisionally scheduled to take place on Saturday 1 August 2020, will be renamed the ‘Heads Up FA Cup Final in recognition of the campaign .

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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