Increasingly, sporting organisations are recognising the importance of investing in their employees’ mental health.

With footballers exposed to a range of stressors throughout their career, from contract negotiations, change and relocation, performance apprehension and looming retirement, it is inevitable some athletes will suffer from a mental health condition during their professional employment.

That’s why Sydney FC’s Terry McFlynn is ensuring his club’s coaching staff are equipped with the necessary training to understand mental health issues and support players and fellow staff, through a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course.

McFlynn, who is the Sky Blues’ General Manager of Football Operations, contacted the PFA in June following a discussion about player’s mental health and wellbeing with Sydney FC coaching staff.

After partnering with the PFA to secure support for the training, Sydney became the first club in the A-League to undertake the MHFA course, at the club’s Macquarie University base.

The MHFA teaches coaches how to offer initial support to athletes who are developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or are in a mental health crisis, until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis is resolved.

The course curriculum is evidence-based, as informed by the Mental Health First Aid Guidelines.

The course was presented by mental health management experts, educating Sydney’s coaching staff on how to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression and how to respond appropriately and helpfully.

“The topic of mental health is a very serious issue in society today,” McFlynn said. “At Sydney FC we are leading the way in breaking down that stigma and encouraging people to speak out and seek help if they are experiencing difficulties.

“This course has enabled us to identify early signs of mental health issues and has armed us with the tools to provide support individuals who may require our support.”

PFA president Alex Wilkinson said;

“It’s important that clubs support and respect all aspects of player wellbeing, not only physical aspects, but ensure players are mentally healthy as well. Increasingly, staff should be equipped to understand and support players with mental health issues and undertaking appropriate training is a step in the right direction.”