As Mental Health Awareness Week starts, the FA's Craig Donald writes about anxiety

Monday 15 May 2023

Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK.

While it’s critical to think about mental health all year round, this is an important period which sees communities and organisations come together to raise awareness on a subject which touches all of us in one way or another.

The theme this year is anxiety, which is a very normal emotion but it’s something that can spiral and become a problem for many. Anxiety is common and impacts everybody at some stage – and it can be brought on by everyday things such as job pressures, relationship worries, family or financial concerns, or otherwise.

We all cope with anxiety in different ways. For me, that can be anything from focusing on quality sleep, prioritising time for physical activities like going to the gym or going for a walk, sitting quietly and focusing on my breathing, or picking up my Xbox controller and losing myself in a game.


It’s important to find those tools for your ‘anxiety toolkit’, but also to be able to recognise the signs of anxiety developing and the triggers that might lead to an anxiety attack.

Despite anxiety being very common, by focusing on this theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, it will increase people’s awareness and understanding of the issue and, at the same time, ensure mental health continues to be spoken about and is a priority for everybody to consider.

Across English football, we’re united in our commitment to supporting everybody involved in the game to look after their mental health – whether that’s players, coaches, officials, fans, those working in the game in off-pitch roles, or others. Together, our goal is to keep the conversation on mental health going all year round.

This week, we will join the Home Nations, Premier League, EFL and others in posting content featuring players, clubs and colleagues all linked to the theme of #ToHelpMyAnxiety. This joined-up approach is crucial to ensure that together, we help people overcome any barriers in this space, and give people the freedom to talk openly and to be their true selves.

I know that mental health often isn’t an easy subject to discuss, particularly within environments such as football. But that is something we are collectively working hard to change.

As part of our commitment to ensuring our employees experience positive mental health and wellbeing, within the FA we’ve recruited almost 50 individuals from across our organisation to become Mental Health Ambassadors to support their colleagues.

Personally, I’m really excited and proud to be the senior leadership sponsor for our FA colleagues who have stepped up to be involved in our programme. It takes courage to be able to stand up and talk about mental health. I am a strong believer in being able to bring our most authentic selves into our work environment, and part of that authenticity is being able to admit when times are tough.

Our Mental Health Ambassadors do a great job of being there to support us when we need someone to talk to or to help us find the right kind of support.

More widely across the organisation, we have a strategy in place to support the mental health and wellbeing of our employees and national teams. This means providing access to specialist support and mandatory training and education programmes for our employees.

We’re also a proud signatory of the Mentally Healthy Football Declaration, which is a legacy of the Heads Up campaign, spearheaded by FA President HRH The Prince of Wales. The Declaration is a joint commitment across English football to support mental wellbeing and to encourage participants and fans to look after their mental health – it’s something we’re proud of and remain focused on delivering.

We’re now seeing mental health being spoken about regularly across our game and throughout wider society. But we know there’s much more to be done, and we will not be complacent in this area.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, but sadly it doesn’t always feel that way. Mental Health Awareness Week allows us to shine a spotlight on our mental health and to highlight all the great resources available to help us through the difficult times.

If you feel like you may need to reach out to somebody to talk about how you’re feeling, the Samaritans offers crucial 24/7 support, while mental health charity Mind and Calm both provide important services and resources for those who are looking for help with their mental health. You can also find more information on Mental Health Awareness Week and the vast amount of support available here.

By Craig Donald The FA's chief information officer