Inauguration of the unique Benches of Friendship initiative to promote mental health, featuring nations participating in the FIFA World Cup

Inauguration of the unique Benches of Friendship initiative to promote mental health, featuring nations participating in the FIFA World Cup

  • 32 benches – representing every nation participating in the FIFA World Cup – are being built to promote mental health.
  • The announcement of the benches coincides with today’s World Mental Health Day and the symbolic inauguration event at Doha’s 974 Stadium
  • HE Sheikha Hind and Sir Mo Farah unveil England’s bench at the Global Health Innovation Summit

A unique project involving bespoke public benches to promote the crucial importance of mental health, and the role football and sport can play more widely in promoting mental wellbeing, was announced today. Thirty-two “Friendship Benches” – one for each nation participating in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – are being built for installation at key locations in Doha, including the compound tournament stadiums.

The project is part of the Sport for Health partnership, led by the World Health Organization and Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health. Its purpose is to demonstrate the importance of mental health and offer advice on ways to promote mental well-being, including the importance of physical activity and sport. The initiative is supported by FIFA, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, WISH, the NGO Friendship Benches and the WHO Universal Health Coverage Partnership.

As part of World Mental Health Day, a selection of the first benches are on display today at Stadium 974, Doha, one of the venues for this year’s FIFA World Cup. The bench initiative was symbolically inaugurated with the preview of England’s bench at the Qatar Foundation’s global health event, the World Health Innovation Summit (WISH), in anticipation of a greater reveal of the pews on World Mental Health Day.

England athlete Sir Mo Farah, whose ten Olympic and World Championship gold medals make him the most successful men’s long-distance track runner of all time, inaugurated the England bench, where he was joined by Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice President and CEO of Qatar. Foundation, for a conversation about sport and mental health – a symbolic recognition of the initiative.

“Meeting Sir Mo and hearing the fascinating story of how he left Mogadishu for London as a young boy and the mental health issues he faced underlined the importance of sitting down and talking about our health mentally,” said HE Sheikha Hind. “I am proud that the Qatar Foundation Global Health Initiative is among those helping to shine a light on mental health in such an innovative and practical way.”

The benches project aligns with the common goals and campaigns of each of the partner organizations, including the FIFA-WHO #REACHOUT campaign, the “Are you OK? project of Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health, and the groundbreaking Friendship Benches project itself, originally developed in Zimbabwe and supported by WHO. The WISH event has also been used in the past as a platform to promote the Friendship Benches concept. This initiative also aims to promote physical activity as one of the main results of the Sport and Health project. To this end, a special feature appearing on each bench are illustrations with advice describing easy and effective exercises that visitors can practice for their physical health.

“The bench is a simple yet powerful vehicle for promoting mental health, from park benches to football stadiums,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO. “The Friendship Benches project reminds us how just sitting down to talk can make a huge difference to mental health.”

HE Dr Hanan Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, Qatar, said the benches project was a tangible and lasting symbol of the importance of the Sport for Health partnership and the goals it strives to achieve for the next FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar – the first to be held in the Middle East and the Arab world – and the legacy that WHO and the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar are working to leave behind.

“Mental health is a central part of the Sport For Health partnership and our aim is for the Benches of Friendship to provide a place, during and after the FIFA World Cup, for residents and visitors to Qatar to come together and ask yourself ‘Are you OK?’ and take the opportunity to engage in dialogue and physical activities,” said HE Dr Al Kuwari.

HE Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General, SC, said: “We are proud to support this project and to get more out of our organization of the FIFA World Cup. The benches will provide a permanent reminder of the first World Cup in the Middle East and the Arab world, while promoting the importance of mental health in communities across the country.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “Through the #REACHOUT campaign, we have recognized the importance of talking with family and friends to foster positive mental health. The Friendship Benches project is another way to raise awareness about mental health issues and encourage a conversation that could save a life.FIFA is proud to partner with the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar to bring football to the fore. service to society and leave a lasting legacy in Qatar for residents and visitors.

The final locations of each of the 32 benches will be announced shortly. Once installed, information will be shared on how Qatari residents and visitors can visit their national benches, and others, in a show of support for promoting mental health.

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Editor’s note:

Video footage and photographs will be shared with the media at the inauguration of the Friendship Benches on October 10.

At 4 p.m. Doha time, a live discussion moderated by WHO will be broadcast on its Facebook channel


Interviews and other information:

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