The Philadelphia Union Foundation, in partnership with the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) and Independence Blue Cross, has introduced “HeadFirst,” an innovative initiative aimed at providing mental health support for young soccer players, parents, and coaches. This pioneering program will kick off with select youth soccer teams in Delaware County.

Recent data reveals that almost 15% of youth aged 10-19 worldwide grapple with mental health disorders. Furthermore, a federal study found a 27% increase in depression diagnoses among children between 2016 and 2020. Another study discovered that 91% of high school athletes experience some degree of stress related to their sports, with 58% reporting moderate to extreme stress levels. “HeadFirst,” featuring content from PCOM psychology faculty, underscores the significance of mental health awareness and offers educational resources for young soccer participants, parents, and coaches.

Paul Howard, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation, stated, “We believe that, by leveraging the power of soccer, we can address the pressing issue of youth mental health. In collaboration with Independence Blue Cross and PCOM, we’ve adopted a proactive approach to promote mental well-being and eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health challenges. Together, we aim to touch the lives of thousands of young players, parents, and coaches in the Philadelphia region, fostering a healthier, more supportive community.”