The weight of any one death by suicide may impact up to 135 people. Movember’s Ahead of the Game campaign highlights the importance of building mental fitness to deal with the challenges life and sport can throw at anyone.

LEADING men’s health organisation, Movember, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) announced its partnership in the Movember Ahead of the Game emotional literacy programme in November last year. Movember Ahead of the Game is an evidence-based programme designed for delivery in a sports club setting. Since it kicked off just seven months ago, 176 clubs across the 32 counties of Ireland have taken part in Movember Ahead of the Game. With at least 1 club in every county receiving a workshop delivered on how to build mental fitness and strengthen resilience to deal with challenges in sport and life. The initiative has engaged 2,729 young male and female membersas well as1,863 parents and club coaches.

On Sunday, 14th July at the All-Ireland football semi-finals that see Donegal take on Galway, Movember will unveil an impactful campaign with a fan zone in Croke Park and an on-pitch activation to make fans aware of the initiative and the power of talking and sharing.

*75% of mental health disorders will have emerged before the age of 24. That’s why conversations about mental health and fitness early in life are important. Helping young people build the skills to look after their own wellbeing, and support their teammates, is critical to lifelong mental resilience and mentally fit communities. According to research conducted by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) and HUGG (Healing Untold Grief Groups), the weight of any one death by suicide may impact up to 135 people. Movember’s Ahead of the Game campaign highlights the importance of building mental fitness to deal with the challenges life and sport can throw at us.

Movember’s Ahead of the Game interactive workshops are delivered by the members of the GPA (all of whom are present or past inter-county players). Movember has already reached its target of engaging 5,000 participants in 176 clubs as of the end of June 2024.

**Movember Ahead of the Game has already had a positive influence on participants with 91% having a better understanding of the importance of being mentally fit and healthy, while 94% said they now know who to talk to and where to go for mental help support for themselves and for others (also 94%). 91% said that after the session they felt more assured in recognising the signs of poor mental health in themselves, with 93% saying they feel more confident recognising the signs of poor mental health in others too. 93% of player participants also said they now had confidence to talk with a friend going through a tough time with their mental health after taking part in Movember Ahead of the Game initiative.

The GAA and GPA join the likes of leading global professional codes like the AFL and Rugby League in making Movember Ahead of the Game available to clubs and members. It puts the GAA and the GPA among the sporting leaders globally in actively supporting mental fitness as much as physical performance.

President of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Jarlath Burns said: ‘Today provides us with an opportunity to celebrate our valued partnership with Movember and the GPA and the positive impact that our delivery of Movember Ahead of the Game is already having in communities across the 32 counties. The response of our clubs to this emotional literacy programme is a testament to our volunteers’ and the GAA’s desire to develop people and not just players. This partnership and Movember’s considerable investment is adding even further value to the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs programme, which an independent 2023 evaluation demonstrated is delivering €50m worth of savings p.a. to the Irish health sector. I am excited to see where our continued collaboration with Movember brings us over the next four years.’

Tom Parsons, CEO, Gaelic Players Association said: ‘The impact that the Movember Ahead of the Game programme has had in such a short period of time is hugely encouraging. It shows what can be achieved when three organisations such as ourselves, the GAA and Movember come together. We are very aware of the position of players within their communities as role models and to have 22 current and past players using that influence in such a meaningful way shows their willingness to give back. We also recognise the importance of early conversations about mental health and fitness, and we are delighted to be able to play a role in facilitating those conversations.’

Sarah Ouellette, Country Director, Movember, added: ‘In just seven months, we have seen the impact that Movember Ahead of the Game has had on over 5,000 people in 176 clubs by the end of June. This year’s campaign really hits home how important this initiative is, as the weight of any one death by suicide is carried by 135 people. We are the leading global charity changing the face of men’s health and we exist to stop men dying too young by tackling some of the most complex health issues facing men today including mental health. What started as a single-minded fundraising and awareness campaign in 2003 has evolved into a multi-faceted health organisation, and we are delighted to work with the GAA and GPA to reach people across the 32 counties of Ireland to support them on their journey through sport and life.’

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