Scottish professional football clubs to receive 'groundbreaking' suicide prevention training

A teenager with depression. Pic: Wayne0216-Shutterstock
A teenager with depression. Pic: Wayne0216-Shutterstock
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Professional football clubs will be among the first organisations in Scotland to receive suicide prevention training as part of a “groundbreaking” initiative.

The new online resource is being made available to the country’s 42 professional football clubs, as well as 300 mental health first aiders, who are employed by 80 footballing organisations.

With two people dying every day because of suicide in Scotland, the initiative is part of Scottish Government efforts to cut deaths 20 per cent by 2022.

High-profile players who have taken their own life include former Hearts star Justin Fashanu, Britain’s first openly gay footballer who fled from the US to London amid a sex assault investigation, and Wales manager, former player Gary Speed.

With junior football clubs, as well as youth sections of the game, women’s football amateur and para-football leagues also be included, the Scottish Government estimated the initiative could reach 190,000 players across the country.

The new resource – which includes online animations that aim to raise awareness of the kind of issues that can result in a person considering suicide – is also being rolled out to councils.

Mental health minister Clare Haughey launched the scheme during a visit to Easter Road.

She said: “We want to create a Scotland where suicide is preventable, and where anyone contemplating suicide or who has lost a loved one gets the support they need.

“I’d like to thank the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) and the Scottish FA who will be among the first to roll this out to players and staff across all 42 clubs.

“I’d also like to thank Scotland’s councils for their commitment to take this training to almost 250,000 local authority workers across the country.

“Our approach recognises the need to work together across sectors and organisations to identify and support people in distress, strengthen communities, and save lives.”

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said football was “proud to be able to play a part in this groundbreaking initiative”.

He added: “It’s vital that mental health issues are given the prominence they deserve, and that more people are encouraged to seek the support and treatment they require.”

Ian Maxwell, chief executive of the Scottish FA, praised the “important resource which addresses such a worthy topic”.

He stated: “It is through services such as this that we will work to ensure that Scottish football is a supportive and nurturing environment for the mental wellbeing of everyone who wants to participate in our wonderful game.”