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Head In The Game Program Launches to Address Youth Mental Wellbeing Crisis in the U.S.

Beyond Sport, Z Zurich Foundation and Zurich North America launch "Head In The Game," a multi-year program encompasses nonprofit grants, coaches training, a learning community and multimedia awareness campaign with a special focus on BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth.

Beyond Sport, Z Zurich Foundation and Zurich North America launch “Head In The Game,” a multi-year program encompasses nonprofit grants, coaches training, a learning community and multimedia awareness campaign with a special focus on BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth.

NEW YORK, Oct 10, 2023 — In honor of today’s recognition of World Mental Health Day, Beyond Sport and the Z Zurich Foundation (the Foundation) in collaboration with Zurich North America have officially launched “Head in the Game,” a comprehensive program to positively impact the mental wellbeing of 13- to 19-year-olds in the United States, with a special focus on youth of color, LGBTQ+ youth and girls. The collaboration and corresponding awareness campaign was first announced this past May in response to the national emergency declared on youth mental wellbeing and reports that support services have been largely inadequate.

Supported by an investment from the Foundation, Beyond Sport has already awarded grants to 40+ youth nonprofits who are leveraging sport to promote mental health and started a training series for youth sport providers on coaching through a mental wellbeing-lens. Today, the centerpiece of the program, a youth-focused awareness campaign, went live at headinthegame.us and across corresponding social media channels.

“Addressing the invisible mental health crisis among young people necessitates prioritizing investments in mental wellbeing prevention and promotion programming. By raising awareness and changing attitudes through impactful campaigns, such as Head In The Game, we can empower young individuals with invaluable tools to shift their mindset and recognize the significance of looking after their mental wellbeing before any crisis point is reached,”

said Sofyen Khalfaoui, Z Zurich Foundation Head of Improving Mental Wellbeing.

Head in the Game recognizes that mental wellbeing challenges exist for all youth demographics and this comprehensive program strives to include and benefit all. The initial focus, however, is on communities in California, Illinois, Minnesota and New York because U.S. Census data shows that while Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and others (LGBTQ+) populations in cities in these states have grown significantly over the last 10 years, resources have not grown at pace. The most vulnerable populations in need of immediate attention have been found to be young people who identify as BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ and girls.

“With reports showing that 20% of 12- to 17-year-olds had suffered from at least one major depressive episode in 2021, and with depression, anxiety and behavioral disorders among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents, Beyond Sport felt that it was important to take action on the crisis. The investment of the Z Zurich Foundation is invaluable to our efforts to leverage the world of sport to address systemic inequities that are impacting youth mental wellbeing.”

said its Executive Director, Fred Turner.

Head In The Game Focus Areas

Head in the Game is employing a systems-change approach focused on prevention, promotion, attitudinal change and behavioral impact across three focus areas:

Grants and Capacity Building

Starting in CA, IL, MN and NY, 43 youth nonprofits that are using a wide array of sports to improve mental wellbeing outcomes for youth have received funds to implement or augment culturally relevant programming. Learn more about them here.

Additionally, 2000+ youth sport coaches across the country have the opportunity to enroll in training sessions led by the Center for Healing and Justice Through Sport (CHJS) and Doc Wayne both leading experts on helping coaches develop youth and athlete-focused mental wellbeing programs. The free workshops began September 30, encompassing in-person, virtual and self-paced sessions. Programming will help coaches recognize signs of stressors, empower youth to find their inner strengths and cope with pressure, while creating stigma-free spaces. A few spots remain – coaches can learn more and apply here.

Awareness Campaign

The #HeadInTheGame multimedia campaign offers teen-focused educational resources to support, empower and create a safe space for young people to learn more and engage freely about mental wellbeing. In the coming months, the campaign will also feature inspirational “Collaborators” from across the world of sport – community, collegiate and professional – who will share their stories, tips and experiences through narratives and short videos. The campaign will continue to expand over the course of the program and a selection of guides for parents and caregivers is also available. Co-created with Beyond Sport’s sister company, thinkBeyond, it is accessible at headinthegame.us and on campaign and partner social channels. Young people are encouraged to engage and provide their feedback.

Learning Community

Launching later this year, the final element of the program will bring together key stakeholders from sport, mental wellbeing and youth development. Through an interactive, virtual platform, community members will have the opportunity to share best practices and resources, seek support on specific challenges from their peers, access development opportunities and celebrate progress together.

“We are proud to support the Head in the Game program and to participate in a collaboration that will heighten awareness of and promote resources addressing the mental wellbeing challenges facing our young people. Sports can be a powerful channel for developing resilience and confidence, and Head in the Game is tapping into that power to make a positive impact.”

said Vince Santivasi, Head of Direct Markets and Wellbeing Executive Sponsor at Zurich North America.

To learn more, visit beyondsport.org/headinthegame. The public is encouraged to share the campaign with youth via headinthegame.us and engage on its and Beyond Sport’s social channels.

Media Contacts

Beyond Sport: Karen Asare: karen.asare@beyondsport.org.

Z Zurich Foundation: Manon Parmentier: manon.parmentier@zurich.com.

Zurich North America: Clare Fitzgerald: clare.fitzgerald@zurichna.com.

About Beyond Sport

Beyond Sport invests in organizations, programs and networks that use sport to positively impact communities globally. Believing that sport provides a powerful pathway to effective solutions addressing complex societal issues, the foundation employs a unique and holistic approach that leverages a global network of sport for social change innovators, progressive organizations and expertise built up over nearly two decades. Since 2008, it has provided approximately $9.1M in grants to 301 projects across 66 countries. beyondsport.org.

About Z Zurich Foundation

The Z Zurich Foundation believe in a world where young people have the tools and resources to improve their mental wellbeing. Through the various projects it supports, the Foundation aims to create a mental wellbeing movement that is helping young people see their feelings for what they are, so they can prevent stress from developing into anxiety. The Z Zurich Foundation is a Swiss-based charitable foundation established by members of the Zurich Insurance Group. Learn more at zurich.foundation.

About Zurich North America

Zurich North America is one of the largest providers of insurance solutions and services to businesses and individuals. Our customers represent industries ranging from agriculture to technology. Zurich North America is part of Zurich Insurance Group, a leading multi-line insurer that serves its customers in global and local markets. Read more zurichna.com.

About Think Beyond

thinkBeyond is a social impact and sustainability consultancy that supports athletes, rights holders, brands and nonprofits to make a positive impact on the world and their business, in and through, sport. We help our clients to create, deliver, measure and share their impact. Learn more at canyouthinkbeyond.com.