World Mental Health Day: WHO-FIFA installs friendship benches to promote mental-health awareness

Project focuses on sports’ role in promoting mental well-being

By Arya Rohini
Published: Monday 10 October 2022
The preview of the England bench English athlete Sir Mo Farah at a worldwide health event served as a symbolic opening to the bench programme.Photo: WHO

A novel project featuring specially designed public benches to highlight the importance of mental health was unveiled October 10, 2022.

The project focuses on sports’ role in promoting mental well-being. The announcement of the joint project by the World Health Organization and Qatar’s ministry of public health coincides with World Mental Health Day.

Some 32 friendship benches are installed in prominent locations in Doha. These benches represent the 32 countries participating in the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

The preview of the England bench at a worldwide health event served as a symbolic opening to the bench programme.

The bench was unveiled by English athlete Sir Mo Farah, who holds the record for most male track distance runners with 10 Olympic and World Championship gold medals. A wider unveiling of the benches followed this.

“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,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

The ground-breaking Friendship Benches project was first initiated in Zimbabwe with the support of WHO.

“FIFA is proud to partner with the World Health Organization, and Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health to put football at the service of society and to leave a lasting legacy in Qatar for residents and visitors,” said FIFA president, Gianni Infantino.

The initiative supports each partner organisation’s shared objectives and initiatives, including the FIFA-WHO #REACHOUT campaign and the “Are You OK?” project of the ministry of public health of Qatar.

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

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