[Sponsored Article] Global sporting stars gathered virtually at the inaugural Laureus Sport for Good Mental Health and Wellbeing through Sport Regional Forum , presented by EACT Jockey Club Active Community Programme and funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, held online from 1 to 3 December . They shared experiences and exchanged views on how sport can support young people with mental health challenges. Mental health takes a beating COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the world, severely impacting the mental health and wellbeing of whole societies, including disadvantaged young people. Surveys from around the world show marked decline in mental health following lockdowns and restrictions on sport, leading to loss of social interaction and wider opportunities for self-development. Hong Kong’s mental health slumped to a record low in 2020, according to an annual survey organised by the Mental Health Month Organising Committee. The latest findings, released in September, showed the average mental health index for Hongkongers this year was 45.12, lower than the 46.41 recorded in 2019. Scoring below 52 indicates an unsatisfactory psychological state. It’s against this backdrop that international and local sports stars met up with representatives from Laureus-supported mental health and wellbeing programmes from around the world, as well as global leaders from the mental health and wellbeing sector for the Forum. High-wattage star power The roll-call of international sporting heroes who spoke at the online Forum was truly impressive. They included 400m hurdling legend Edwin Moses , four-time Olympic gold medallist, Li Xiaopeng , China’s first winter gold medallist Yang Yang , and South African swimming stars Cameron van der Burgh and Natalie du Toit . They were joined by rugby stars Sean Fitzpatrick and Nolli Waterman with surfing legend Garrett McNamara . Laureus Hong Kong Ambassadors Lee Lai Shan , Wong Kam Po , Malina Ngai Man Lin and Alex Fong Lik Sun led the local contingent, accompanied by top fencer Vivian Kong and swimmer Yvette Kong . Speaking at the Forum, Laureus Academy Member Edwin Moses, who won Olympic 400m hurdling gold at the 1976 and 1982 Olympics, said, “As one of our inspirational programme leaders rightly said during the Forum, young people in many communities around the world are also being impacted by mental health and wellbeing epidemics. At the highest level, the mental side of sport is crucial, but of most importance is the role sport can play in supporting young people with mental health challenges. At Laureus, the research is proving that the work we are supporting is making a difference to the mental health and wellbeing of disadvantaged young people, and we need to keep that up.” Echoing his sentiments, Laureus Academy Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick, a legend of All Blacks rugby, commented, “Throughout the Forum, we heard current and former athletes, mental health professionals and sport for development programme leaders talk about the positive role sport can play in supporting young people with mental health challenges. If there’s one thing we should all take away from this event, it’s that we need to keep moving forward, keep these conversations going and keep changing young lives for the better.” Closer to home, Laureus Academy Member Yang Yang, who won 500m short track speed skating gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics, making history as China’s first Winter Olympic champion, also urged the sport for development sector to continue the conversation. “Children and young people are our future, and mental health and wellbeing among young people is a subject we need to put at the top of our agendas in the coming months and years. Listening to the mental health and wellbeing experts discuss the transformational power of sport, and hearing the incredible people on the ground at our Sport for Good programmes has been inspirational. In sport and in life, we all come up against challenges and the global challenges in 2020 are no different. Working together, sharing knowledge and continuing the conversations we have had over these three days is going to be so important in us using sport to help build resilience and confidence in our young people.” Referencing Asia and Hong Kong, Laureus Academy Member and four-time Olympic champion Li Xiaopeng said, “Here in Asia and around the world, mental health and wellbeing challenges faced by vulnerable and disadvantaged young people are increasing. 2020 has been a turbulent year globally, but it’s had a real impact on young people we are working with. Through the Forum, we all had the opportunity to reduce stigma, raise awareness and use sport to help young people build confidence and increase self-esteem, and that’s one of Laureus Sport for Good’s main priorities, especially here in Hong Kong.” The support of these sporting giants has helped to shine the spotlight not just on the mental health and wellbeing of young people, but also on Laureus Sport for Good. The global charity, founded 20 years ago under the patronage of Nelson Mandela, supports children and young people by using the power of sport to end violence, discrimination, and disadvantage. Over the last two decades, it has raised more than €150m for the Sport for Development sector, reaching and helping change the lives of more than 6 million children and young people since 2000. The charity currently supports more than 200 programmes in over 40 countries, including 19 programmes in eight countries across Asia. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust promotes innovative sports in the community The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, one of the world’s top ten charity donors, has been promoting a healthy lifestyle in Hong Kong and funded projects to provide various services and programmes to people of different age brackets, abilities and ethnicities. Among the projects it has funded are Fun to Move@JC , a Trust initiated project involving schools and families, Kick it Heart’s Jockey Club Happy Senior Football Programme, and Hong Kong Playground Association’s Jockey Club Innovative and Adventurous “Sports for All” Programme. Representatives of The Trust and these projects shared interesting cases and insights on the first day of the Forum in a session titled “Active participation and have fun in sports”. They agreed on the need to be more creative and innovative in their programmes and to use new ways to get more members of the public engaged in physical activity. Making sports fresh and fun to do, and using new technology tools to increase participation will contribute to providing positive energy to the community. Get the lowdown on the Forum If you have missed the Forum or would like to watch it again to see your favourite sports stars and to learn more about we should harness the power of sport to combat the mental health crisis, go online and watch the recording of the Forum . Note: All photos were taken prior to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.