The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest public health crisis for generations, one which has increased the mental health risks to our society.

Before the crisis hit, mental illness was already the single largest cause of ill health and disability in Northern Ireland, affecting around one in five adults and 45,000 children at any one time. The impact of COVID-19 will potentially result in these numbers increasing.

This pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing troubled state of affairs regarding mental health, both in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

– Young Minds reveals 32% of young people agreed that COVID-19 had made their mental health much worse; 51% agreed that it had made their mental health a bit worse. In Northern Ireland, stigma remains a major deterrent to seeking help for mental illness.

– Prescription rates for mood and anxiety disorders has increased in Northern Ireland with a higher rate in women than in men.

Sport NI CEO Antoinette McKeown, in partnership with the PHA, today announced the launch of the Sport Wellbeing Hub, in response to the COVID-19 challenge.

The Hub is unique, providing instant access to helpful information, guidance and screening that has been tailored specifically to help care for our wellbeing needs.  

Speaking online at the launch, Antoinette said, “We developed the Sport Wellbeing Hub with Inspire, to help you create your own wellbeing care plan, as well as giving guidance on support through a guided self-assessment. It helps to provide the right help, right now, with online access to a range of fantastic and useful resources that are tailored to the user, which is so important at this challenging time.’’

The Hub is a valuable online resource that we encourage you to use. It is for everyone across the sporting community, at all levels and all abilities. Everyone.

The Hub offers a fantastic range of innovative tools and resources, including:

– Guided self-assessment via chatbot;

– Self-help programmes and digital intervention tools;

– Searchable ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ map; 

– Wellbeing information library;

– Video content featuring some of our sporting heroes talking about mental health.

Whether you are looking for some advice or need a little more direction, please visit the Sport Wellbeing Hub:

Former Arsenal and England captain, and founder of Sporting Chance, Tony Adams MBE said:  

 “Looking after our mental and emotional health is always important. At this time when we are all experiencing lockdown, worries about work and loved ones, and, of course, the impact on our beloved sports, it couldn’t be more so. The Sport Wellbeing Hub is a really useful tool to help sportspeople of all ages. Take a look. This is great work.” 

Runner Ciara Mageean was due to compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games. She said:

“The Sport Wellbeing Hub from Sport NI is a fantastic place to go to help with our mental health. I’ve signed up to an account, found the i-helper and mood-tracker really useful. I’d highly recommend checking it out. Our mental health is so vital and right now is a challenging time for all of us.”

Oisin McConville, counsellor and GAA All-Ireland winner, said:

“Wellbeing covers so many different facets of life. For many years there was a stigma around anybody addressing their mental health. Thankfully we are in a much better place now. Society is tackling mental health and wellbeing head on. There are lots of avenues to track, react and better our wellbeing, including the Sport Wellbeing Hub. There’s a function that can track your mood from week-to-week and I’d advise anyone to check it. Engage with it because the Sport Wellbeing Hub will help all areas of mental health.”

Dr Philip Doyle, a world championship and world cup silver medallist rower, said:

“I was supposed to be going to the Olympics. Instead, I’m now training in my garage. During lockdown, especially when you’re alone with your thoughts, mental health is really important. One of the best things about Sport NI’s Sport Wellbeing Hub is raising awareness, a five-step guide to improving your mental wellbeing and the contacts section. With sport and with life, there are ups and downs. The ups are brilliant but sometimes we need help to get through the downs and this is a great resource to help you through that.”

Dr Claire McLaughlin of Ireland rugby said:

“The Sport Wellbeing Hub has so much information and loads of resources covering anxiety, depression, bereavement, sleep and more. During such an uncertain time, it’s important we try to manage our mental health. I’m currently working as a doctor at the Ulster hospital. Seeing people coming into A&E in crisis and having struggles on mental health, I think it’s so important we focus on this.”

Football manager David Jeffrey said:

“I’m a senior social worker and manager of Ballymena United football club. We’re all going through a pretty tough time. COVID-19 is presenting challenges we thought we’d never have to face. Sport NI has launched the Sport Wellbeing Hub. The guidance is straightforward, practical and a very good way of helping people look after their mental health. Together let’s make sure our mental health is good. And better.”

TAMHI manager Joe Donnelly said:

“This almost one-stop shop for information and resources will be invaluable to clubs. Having Sport NI and Inspire ensuring quality and relevant content will really help with clubs developing wellbeing capacity”.

Group Director of Inspire Professional Services John Conaghan said:

“Inspire is delighted to have developed this unique resource in partnership with Sport NI. Now more than ever we hope that it will offer practical support and guidance to help thousands of people in sporting communities across Northern Ireland to look after their wellbeing.”