Are you AO-K

The Sale Sharks Foundation joined forces with the club’s principal partner, AO, to launch a life-changing mental health programme designed to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing among youngsters across the North West.

The six-week ‘Are you AO-K’ programme, which was created by the Mental Wellbeing team at the foundation and will be delivered by Sale Sharks Foundation coaches, with support from Sharks first team players and club staff.

A core part of the ground-breaking programme is teaching the link between physical and mental health. Children will learn what a balanced diet is and how this helps nourish both the body and the mind.

After all stages of the programme, they will be encouraged to discuss what they enjoyed about the task to help them recognise that exercise is a great way of boosting happy hormones.

It will also include tips to combat negative thoughts and feelings and how parents, grandparents and teachers are there to support them and that their homes and classrooms are a safe space to express how they feel.

As some children may not be completely comfortable with communicating their emotions verbally, they will also be taught more practical methods to manage negative feelings.

‘Are you AO-K’ also covers the relationship between social media and mental well-being as well as cyber-bullying. To show the children how they can manage their screen time, they will discuss amongst themselves what they enjoy most about playing with either their friends or siblings. This will help them understand that in person interactions are just as enjoyable as connecting online.

Throughout the lessons, there will also be signposting for services such as NHS, Childline, MIND, Healthy Young Minds and Hub of Hope and at the end of each course, wellbeing packs will be gifted to every child that takes part.

Sale Sharks legend Jason Robinson OBE helped launched the programme in September 2021 said:

When I was making my way in rugby as a young player we didn’t have this sort of education and support. It would have made a huge difference to me because I struggled at times.

These young people have so many new challenges with social media so I jumped at the chance to speak to them, to encourage them, and to remind them that they can be anything they want to be.

I’m so proud to be involved in this project. It’s fantastic to see the club’s principle partner working so closely with the Sale Sharks Foundation to change lives in our region.

Vicky Monk, Director of Customer & Brand at AO said:

Supporting mental health and wellbeing is a really important and exciting part of our partnership with Sale Sharks.

The last 18 months have been incredibly challenging for everyone, especially children, having faced huge disruption to their daily lives. So, it’s vital that we come together to make sure young people know they can speak up about their mental health.

At AO, we’re passionate about helping young people realise their potential and we hope that Are You AO-K creates a lasting, positive impact on the children involved.