Beyond Sport launch mental health support initiative
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head in the game promo flyer
Beyond Sport have launched an initiative to positively impact youth mental wellbeing in the U.S. with a special focus on youth of colour, LGBTQ+ youth & girls

In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared youth mental health to be a national emergency in the United States. While young people are increasingly struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, panic attacks, self harm and more, support services have largely been inadequate. And for youth of color, LGBTQ+ youth and girls, rates have been even higher, with access to resources often out of reach. 

In response, Beyond Sport and the Z Zurich Foundation, in collaboration with Zurich North America, created Head In The Game, a comprehensive, multi-year program to improve mental health outcomes for 13- to 19-year-olds in the United States. Leveraging the world of sport at community, collegiate and professional levels, our goal is to provide young people with knowledge-building resources, a safe space to speak freely and to help close the gap on youth mental wellbeing inequities.

Though everyone's mental wellbeing journey is different, Head In The Game wants young people to know that they are not alone. Launched on World Mental Health Day 2023, we want to normalize mental wellbeing as an every day conversation. 

The problem

In January 2022, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a rare public health advisory calling on the nation to respond to the growing mental health crisis impacting young people that had worsened with the COVID pandemic and societal unrest. However, recent studies have shown that young people are not receiving sufficient support to address the challenges they are going through:

  • 20% of 12-17-year-olds have suffered from at least one major depressive episode. [SAMHSA, 2021]
  • 1 in 5 U.S. youth either currently or at some point in their life have had a serious debilitating mental illness [CDC]
  • Historically, children and adolescents who identify as Black, Indigenous and other people of Color (BIPOC) have had inequitable access to mental healthcare. [NIH/NCBI, 2023]
  • 60% of LGBTQ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it. [Trevor Project, 2022]
  • 3 in 5 girls felt persistently sad and hopeless. [CDC, 2021]
  • Depression, anxiety and behavioral disorders are among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents. [WHO, 2021]

How it will work

Head In The Game will use a systems-change approach to positively impact hundreds of thousands of youth, with an initial focus on communities in in California, Illinois, Minnesota and New York.

Though challenges exist for all youth, 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 our target 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, LGBTQ+ and girls.


Head in the Game focus areas

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43 youth nonprofits using a wide array of sports to improve mental wellbeing outcomes for teens in CA, IL, MN and NY 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.

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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. 

Some description

Launching in late 2023, the final element of the program will bring together key stakeholders from across sport, mental wellbeing and youth development. Through an interactive, virtual platform, community members will have the opportunity to share best practice and resources, seek support on specific challenges from their peers, access development opportunities and celebrate progress together.



For more information on Head In The Game, email [email protected].


Content & Communications
Beyond Sport


United States
North America
All sports
Sustainable Development Goals
3 – Good health and well-being
Target Group

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