The Camanachd Association, shinty’s ruling body, is encouraging attendees at this weekend’s opening round of fixtures for the 2020 season to think about mental health issues.
All matches across the fixture card will start one minute later at 2.31pm to allow spectators to “take a minute for mental health”.
The move mirrors efforts undertaken in football where high-profile games in the English and Scottish FA cup competitions were delayed to raise awareness of the issue.
Aaron Duncan-MacLeod, marketing and communications officer of the Camanachd Association, said: “Of course, it is a big deal in football but it seems, sadly, to be an even bigger deal in shinty with our unique geography reaching into rural communities where social isolation is a big factor.
“Not just that, shinty prides itself on being a community sport and it is right in the heart of the community.
“It is quite easy to overlook these issues and just get on with playing, but it is important that we don’t and use whatever limited powers we have to stimulate conversations about a topic that has, quite frankly, been taboo for too long.
“I think it is important we have this minute to allow the players and spectators to stimulate conversation about mental health that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
“That gives people who might be suffering the chance to express themselves and hopefully get the help or assistance they need.”
He added: “Its 2.31pm – or one minute later for those games that get altered due to the weather – and we are doing this right across the board.
“We did think about running it across two weeks so that everybody would get that home game, but we felt it lost a bit of its poignancy if we did it over two weeks, so we are just taking it into the first week of the season.”
Articles have been published across the shinty.com website in the build-up to this weekend’s fixtures, relating to general health and wellbeing, as well as mental health.
The association is hoping to roll out its development team who have been trained in raising awareness to clubs, where members will be trained to become ambassadors who will be approachable and carry the knowledge to signpost to help services.
Mr Duncan-MacLeod added: “Last year, we had the sports chaplaincy project down at Kyles Athletic. We have taken on board the comments from that.
“But we are looking at ways in which we can reach out to all our members by using something that is quite simple and could have huge benefits.
“This minute has not been difficult to organise and it has not put any pressure on the clubs or any individuals.
“It has just been something the association has organised, with referees that will hopefully give folk the opportunity to express themselves.
“With the issues that have existed in shinty clubs and elsewhere in rural communities, we thought it was quite important we had a real focus on mental health other than just physical health this year.”
Kingussie Camanachd will attempt to retain their Premiership title, which they secured last season for the first time in 10 years.