FIFA has joined the world to mark World Mental Health Day with Alive and Kicking, which uses football to tackle mental health issues in Africa. Alive and Kicking is the only Non-Governmental Organization into the manufacturing of footballs.
It believes in creating ethical jobs, donating sports balls and delivering vital health education in communities facing disadvantage in sub-Saharan Africa
Mental Health in Sub-Saharan Africa
Mental health challenges have rocked the world particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa years back.
Due to the lack of political will and health facilities to deal with mental health-related illnesses, the medical condition was neglected.
At the same time, Africa was suffering from other health problems such as Malaria and HIV – AIDS.
The least talk about the level of poverty and less access to quality education the better.
Alive and Kicking, a not for profit organization took up the challenge in African.
This gave birth toa programme that saw Alive and Kicking supplying not less than one million footballs to be used to educate children in Africa with a particular interest in Zambia, Kenya and Ghana from 2004.
In a message to FIFA.com to mark the World Mental Health Day Ben Sadler, CEO of Alive and Kicking said: “There was a stigma attached to mental health, and nobody was really doing anything to help”.
Stigmatization of those suffering from mental health is real and a common occurrence in many parts of Africa.
In Ghana, mentally derailed persons who need help can be seen roaming in town without help, others are seen stationed under trees and street corners in the capital city of Accra.
To ensure, mental health challenges to not degenerate from bad to worse, the FIFA and its partners such as the World Health Organization have called on all who are suffering from any mental issues to seek early medical care and support.
The Success Story of Alive and Kicking
Alive and Kicking has been successful in Zambia with its a project which according to Ben Sadler has created full-time jobs for persons who find themselves in what he termed vulnerable job groups.
All its staff in Zambia have never had any formal work prior to being employed by the NGO.
Mr Ben Sadler holds the view that “Playing sport is the premium way of improving our mental health. We deliver a curriculum of football drills which, within them, deliver mental health messages directly through play.
Its programme has fuse football and health talks together however when people join the NGO’s programme to play football, learn skills and have fun, the NGO uses the opportunity to talk about health issues to healthy participants.
Children who join the programme to play football benefit from the health talks that focuses often on mental health.
Statistics from Alive and Kicking shows that those who join their programmes improve their knowledge in health matter by an average of 72 per cent.
Ben Sadler called on all to engage in regular exercise to live healthy lives. The programmes of Alive and Kicking are impacting lives positively, as people informed on mental health issues are three-time likely to seek for help.
“Regular exercise and sport, it’s a fantastic and proven way of improving your emotional and mental health,” Sadler said.
Apart from the health benefits integrated into the programme in Africa, football itself is helping participants to exercise, work as teams, and improve on their communication skills as well as making football an ideal tool.