THE COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is the biggest health crisis for generations, Sport NI has said this week.
They have also voiced concern that the pandemic has increased the mental health risks for society.
Before the crisis hit mental illness was already the single largest cause of ill health and disability in Northern Ireland with around one in five adults and around 45,000 of children suffering from a mental health problem at any one time
They fear the impact of COVID-19 will potentially result in a further increase.
Indeed there is mounting evidence that the impact of the outbreak has exacerbated the pre-existing troubled state of affairs regarding mental health in NI and across the UK:
The UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, has reported a 700 per cent increase in calls to its helpline in a single day.
Young Minds revealed 32 per cent of young people agreed that COVID-19 had made their mental health much worse and 51 per cent agreed that it had made their mental health a bit worse.
And that is clearly a concern - especially in Northern Ireland, where stigma is still a major deterrent to seeking help for mental illness.
Prescription rates for mood and anxiety disorders has increased in the province with a higher rate in women than men.
Sport NI CEO Antoinette McKeown, in partnership with the PHA, has responded with the launch of The Sport Wellbeing Hub.
The Hub is unique. It provides instant access to helpful information, guidance and screening that is tailored specifically to help care for the well-being needs of local people.
“We developed The Sport Well-being Hub with Inspire to help you create your own well-being care-plan, as well as giving guidance on support through a guided self-assessment,” she explained.
“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 for everyone across the sporting community, those who are involved in sport, at all levels and all abilities. Everyone.”
It includes guided self-assessment, self-help programmes and digital intervention tools and a map to well-being.
It also includes video content featuring sporting heroes talking about mental health.
This includes former England captain and Arsenal legend Tony Adams.
“Looking after our mental and emotional health is always important,” he said.
“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 sports people of all ages, take a look! This is great work.”
Former GAA All-Ireland winner Oisin McConville has also endorsed the Hub.
“Well-being 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 well-being head on.
“There are lots of avenues to track, react and better our well-being 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”.
Football manager David Jeffrey agrees that it is a game changer.
“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.”
The Sport Wellbeing Hub can be found at: www.inspiresupporthub.org/sports