This weekend the Clubforce team will take part in the annual Pieta House Darkness Into Light event. It’s virtual this year, due to our global pandemic, and due to the pandemic the effects of isolation in our communities have been significantly amplified. Darkness Into Light is a charity event, set up to bring hope to those impacted by suicide and self-harm.
Almost 60% of people say their mental health has suffered significantly during the pandemic according to February figures from the Irish Central Statistics Office (CSO) with over one-fifth of people (20.5%) aged 18 to 34 saying they were feeling “downhearted or depressed” all or most of the time in the weeks leading up to their survey interview.
Mental health awareness means a lot to me personally. Unfortunately, like many others, I am connected to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide. It’s been a recurring theme in my life since my school days, in college and now at work for Clubforce. Two club admins in the past month sadly informed me of tragic suicide deaths associated with their clubs and it seems to be happening all over the country.
Sports clubs can be the centre point for so many social communities and to have that taken away from players and volunteers can be tough to handle. The void that the pandemic has created this year makes Darkness into Light even more relevant as many find themselves isolated in a way they have never been before. The fund-raising event has extended globally in 2021 with dedicated volunteers travelling from far and wide to support mental health awareness and continue the fight against suicide and self-harm.
As sport is coming back in the coming weeks and months there is hope for those who are missing their communities and finding it difficult. As we witness first hand at Clubforce, sports participation at all ages contributes significantly to positive mental health.
Working in the industry I feel it my duty to encourage people to get involved with sport again and if possible to sign up with their local club. Getting back to sport for personal wellbeing is an important message to share with parents, coaches, volunteers and members of any sports club and anyone who is not currently involved in sport.
How does sport support our mental wellbeing?
1. A social network and support group
Being involved in a team environment can provide the perfect opportunity for social interaction and to spend time with friends. It also provides a valuable support system to someone who may feel vulnerable.
2. The feel-good factor and improved mood
It has been proven that any kind of physical activity triggers the release of chemicals called endorphins, by increasing your heart rate and having fun at the same time. This is the reason for having that feel-good factor after burning a sweat. Being involved in a club can encourage a member to work towards goals which in turn can be extremely rewarding and empowering. Goals can differ, but accomplishing a goal is an achievement in every walk of life that can generate feelings of self-worth and confidence.
3. Reduced stress and feelings of depression
Exercise has been proven to reduce levels of stress hormones which in turn can contribute to keeping depression at bay as well as playing your favourite sport.
4. Improved concentration
The power of exercise keeps your mental skills intact which is vital for critical thinking and concentration abilities. Participating in physical activity such as playing in sports can help to prevent cognitive disorders and helps to create positive thought processes. I personally found the beginning of the pandemic very difficult to deal with as I am sure so many others did too, but at so many stages in my life exercise and routine have always been the solution. I have always noticed myself how easy it is to get into ruts and bad habits.
I know It’s not going to be easy after such a long break but getting back to sport will be a light at the end of a tunnel for me. Sport for personal wellbeing is an important message to share with everyone. I urge you to do it for yourself and maybe bring someone else along. You never know, it might just save a life.
Join us this Saturday at sunrise. Join in any way you can – walk, swim, bike or simply share your sunrise moment.
What to do if you feel low?
Speak to a friend or family member.
Both Pieta House and Samaritans provide a completely confidential service who are here to help if anyone is feeling depressed. Pieta House operates a suicide bereavement counselling.
Please don’t hesitate to call Pieta House helpline on 1800 247 247 or call Samaritans on (091) 561 222.
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