Hockey players promote mental health awareness

Monday May 18 2020
By VICTOR OTIENO            

As the coronavirus pandemic continues ravaging the entire globe, a group of sports personalities has sought to highlight the plight of vulnerable people in society.

From the well-off people distributing relief food to their less fortunate colleagues and families, to sending coronavirus awareness messages through social and mainstream media, local sportsmen and women have become part of the pandemic fight.

With sports activities halted due to the virus, Kisumu-based Lakers Hockey Club has joined in this worthy course by engaging in activities with a positive impact to the society.

May is a mental health awareness month. Lakers Club is carrying out a campaign on its social media accounts to educate Kenyans on the importance of taking matters of mental health seriously and how to overcome some of the disorders.

Left back Judith Abayo, who is in charge of the campaign, said the idea behind it is to ensure Kenyans remain mentally healthy during this difficult moment of coronavirus pandemic.

The drive, which is running under the theme “Breaking the Stigma”, has expanded to include players from eight other hockey teams.

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Apart from those who have suffered mental disorders sharing their experience, the players also carry out research on various topics on mental health. The findings are shared on the club's social media accounts in form of write-ups or videos.

“This forum is meant to make people aware of their mental health. It is an opportunity for people to reflect on their conscious mind and to know that it is not all about physical health but mental health too,” Abayo said.

“During this critical time, people are going through a lot. They can relate to each other’s experiences and learn how to cope with their situation.”

Lakers' attacking midfielder Miriam Sitna wrote on the club’s Facebook account: “Mental illness is a medical condition that can be treated, therefore, it should be recognised like any other illness. If you see someone who is disturbed emotionally, reach out to them. Show them that you care for them, as that will go a long way in stopping the individual from self-harm.”

Nakuru Hockey Club goalkeeper Suzzan Mureithi said in a video: “Never hide your feelings because no one will know what you are going through. Speak up and be honest to others because everyone needs support.”

A 2017 World Health Organization report on mental health shows over two million Kenyans have the problem.

According to a report released in April by global players’ union Fifpro, an increasing number of professional footballers are struggling with anxiety and depression due to lack of matches. Abayo said their campaign prevents her colleagues from falling into depression due to lack of matches, which is their only way of easing societal pressures.