The Friendship Benches announcement coincided with this year’s World Mental Health Day.
Custom-made “Friendship Benches” will be installed in different public venues ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 to raise awareness about mental health, officials announced on Monday.
The 32 benches, one for each nation competing in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, are being installed to demonstrate the importance of mental health and offer advice on ways to promote mental wellbeing through sports and physical activity.
The initiative is part of the Sport for Health partnership, led by the World Health Organization and Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH).
“The Friendship Benches project is a powerful reminder of the importance of how health, from mental to physical health, is precious and common to all people and nations, and how, through sports, people can reach out to others, as fellow human beings, in the spirit of solidarity and support,” said aid Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
The programme was symbolically launched with a preview of the England bench at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), a global health event hosted by the Qatar Foundation.
Sir Mo Farah, the most successful male track and field athlete in British history, inaugurated the England bench, before he was joined by Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, for a discussion about sport and mental health.
“Meeting Sir Mo and hearing the compelling story of how he left Mogadishu for London as a young boy and the mental health challenges he faced highlighted the importance of sitting down and talking about our mental health,” Sheikha Hind said.
“I’m proud that Qatar Foundation’s global health initiative is among those helping shine a spotlight on mental health in such an innovative and practical way.”
The benches project aligns with common goals and campaigns of each of partner organisation, including the FIFA-WHO #REACHOUT campaign, the “Are You OK?” project of the MoPH, and the groundbreaking Friendship Benches project itself, originally developed in Zimbabwe and supported by WHO.
“Mental health is a core component of the Sport For Health partnership and our goal is for the Friendship Benches to provide a place, during and after the FIFA World Cup, for residents and visitors to Qatar to come together and ask each other ‘Are You OK?’ and use the opportunity to engage in dialogue and physical activities,” Dr Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, said.
The final locations of each of the 32 benches are yet to be announced.
Once installed, information will be shared on how Qatar residents and visitors can visit their national benches as well as others to show support for mental health and sports.