On Wednesday 20th October we celebrated the importance of building positivity, resilience and mental wellbeing in work at our third Workplace Wellbeing Awards.

Our virtual event was organised to recognise the efforts made by the many organisations that go the extra mile to nurture the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.

Broadcaster Tara Mills hosted the ceremony, which was sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK.

The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) was awarded a special recognition award for its long-standing and ground-breaking commitment to employee wellbeing.

John Conaghan, Group Director of Therapeutic and Wellbeing Services at Inspire, said:

“We are thrilled to have hosted these awards and acknowledge the organisations that are going the extra mile promote and strengthen staff wellbeing. It has been a difficult 19 months for everyone, but it is great to see employee wellbeing being prioritised by employers from all sectors.

At the awards, we celebrated organisations who are ensuring that staff wellbeing is of the highest importance. We congratulate our nominees and winners, all of whom really showcase the best of those creating a culture of employee wellbeing.

We are especially pleased to award the Lifetime Achievement Award to the Gaelic Players Association. The GPA’s 4000 elite inter-county players represent, or have represented, their counties at the highest level in football, hurling and camogie. The GPA is very much aware that while the public may see players first, it sees the person first. The GPA knows that playing at a high level can be challenging, with players balancing the demands of sport, family life, education and work.

Inspire has been providing mental health support to the GPA for a decade now and, during that time, we have seen first-hand the organisation’s passion, commitment and dedication to supporting the mental health of its members. The GPA is very aware that what happens off the pitch can greatly affect what happens on it. It takes seriously the mental health struggles that some players may have, from anxiety, low mood and addiction to family issues and bereavement.

The GPA, and its members, also act as significant role models for the public. We know that when a player speaks publicly about his or her mental health, this encourages members of the public to come forward for help. Inspire is delighted to award the Lifetime Achievement Award to the GPA. It is a true ambassador for mental health awareness and the provider of much needed support to past and present players.”

Accepting the award on behalf of the GPA, CEO Tom Parsons said:

It is a great honour to see the work the GPA has done in the area of mental health recognised in this way by Inspire. Inspire have been a very important supporter of inter-county players in this area and I want to thank them on behalf of each and every player they have helped over the course of the last decade.

Be in no doubt that were it not for those brave individuals who have spoken out about their own difficulties, others would have struggled more and for longer in silence. By seeking help and speaking out, they have helped lessen the stigma that unfortunately still exists around mental health and made the path to support easier for others. This award is truly for them.

Players are at the heart of each and every decision we make or policy we pursue. While sport is often associated with physical health, our members are people first and mental health is something we all have and something we all need to look after. The GPA has consistently encouraged our members to prioritise their mental health and are proud to have provided supports to enable them to do this. We take pride in the fact that we offer to inter-county players a range of services, including a confidential counselling phone line, face-to-face counselling, a text support service, and an online wellbeing support platform, as we help them to deal with times of crisis and also encourage them to look after their mental health on an ongoing basis.

If I could get one message out there today for players it is that we look after our physical health through exercise, eating and sleeping well, and training. We need to treat our mental health in the same way and we have services and tools there for players to do just that, so please make use of them and never be afraid to avail of help should you need it. Many of your fellow players have done so and have seen the benefits.

Kerry Hinks, HR Manager at Bank of Ireland NI, which is sponsoring the awards, said:

At Bank of Ireland, our Wellbeing Strategy is aligned to our ambition and purpose of “enabling our colleagues, customer and communities to thrive”. Wellbeing is about thriving as an individual, about being happy and healthy. We are delighted to support these awards, which recognise the other organisations in Northern Ireland that are aiming to embed a strong culture of workplace wellbeing and ensure that this important area continues to be prioritised.”

The winners for each category were:

Excellence in Education Sector – Education Authority (award sponsored by A&L Goodbody)

Excellence in Health Social Care Sector – NI Hospice (award sponsored by National Pharmacy Association)

Excellence in Public Sector – Translink (award sponsored by CIPD)

Excellence in Private Sector – KN Circet (award sponsored by Henry Brothers)

Excellence in Voluntary Community or Social Enterprise – East Belfast Community Development Agency (award sponsored by Engage Executive Talent)

Excellence in Challenging Stigma in the Workplace – Mates in Mind (award sponsored by MAD Creative)

Outstanding Employee-Led Initiative – BSO (award sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK)

Promoting a Positive Wellbeing Culture – Clúid Housing and NI Water (award sponsored by Mercer)

Lifetime Achievement Award – Gaelic Players Association (GPA)