Newcastle United Foundation has launched a campaign encouraging Newcastle United fans to take a proactive approach to look after their mental health
The campaign, ‘Be a Game Changer’, is funded by Newcastle City Council and the Premier League PFA Community Fund and aims to raise awareness and change the perception of mental health issues. It will encourage fans to take action and look after their mental health, in a similar way to how they would look after their physical health.
‘Be a Game Changer’ will include real-life stories from fans who have experienced mental health issues, information and tips to support mental wellbeing, education workshops, signposting to specialist services as well as match day activities at St. James’ Park.
Written on the Be a Game Changer website, the Foundation explain why the campaign is important - to them, and to their fans. It reads: “The North East had the highest rate of suicide in England in 2017 - a tragic and preventable issue that often results from serious mental health problems.
“But if we talk more openly about mental health, we can take steps to look after ourselves, and each other, more effectively. As football fans we keep a close eye on our team - and we know you keep a close eye on your mates too. So we know that’s the best way to get the ball rolling and start talking.”
Some of the resources available include:
- Top tips on how to stay physically and mentally fit
- Information on how to support your friends and family
- Advice on where to get help for yourself or a friend
Research by Newcastle United Foundation shows that even though one in four people will experience a mental health problem, there is still a stigma which discourages people, especially men, from talking about it.
Suicide remains the biggest killer of men aged 20 - 49 across England and Wales. While many great steps have been taken to address the taboo and encourage conversation surrounding men’s mental health, there is still work to be done.
Kate Bradley, Head of Newcastle United Foundation said: “Last season the Foundation delivered 686,616 hours of physical activity across all programmes which generated £12.6m in health and wellbeing benefits for the North East.
“We know that mental health is as important as physical health, which is why we are proud to launch this campaign with Newcastle City Council and the Premier League to support Newcastle United fans.”
Ashley Lowe, Health and Wellbeing Manager at Newcastle United Foundation added: “Mental health problems affect one in four of us - to put that in perspective that’s 13,000 people at every home game at St. James’ Park.
“Stress, anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, muscle tension and headaches. Exercise and talking are both proven to help so we want to help men, and their family and friends, by giving them the tools to improve their own mental wellbeing.”
Scott Carpenter, a recent Foundation Health and Wellbeing programme participant said: “Now I know that statistically when I am in my seat at St. James’ Park there are likely to be another 13,000 fans around me facing similar struggles that I faced.
“If I had known that years ago, I think I would have had the courage to speak up about my problems and not been embarrassed to tell my family.”
And Newcastle United aren’t the only ones taking steps to improve mental health in the local community. Last year, Everton Football Club launched its ‘People’s Place’ campaign, with plans to build a mental health centre near Goodison Park.
Talking of the campaign and his own experiences of mental health, Steve Harper, Newcastle United’s longest serving player and Newcastle United Foundation Trustee, said: “At the age of 30, I realised something wasn’t right but didn’t know what it was at the time.
“I tried to battle it myself but it’s impossible and I eventually opened up to my wife and some good people at the football club. Talking about it and sharing what I was going through really helped me and you soon realise that you’re not alone and it is very common.
“The darkness closes in on you and you can struggle to see the good in anything. Having suffered from it, you can then recognise and deal with it better if you ever start to feel the same way.”
Councillor Kim McGuinness, cabinet member for culture, sport and public health at Newcastle City Council said: “I am pleased that Newcastle City Council is supporting this important campaign. Everyone has mental health… Supporting people to open up about what is having a negative impact on their lives is an important step in changing this.
“The power of Newcastle Foundation’s brand and the communities this can reach will help to engage people from across the city, kick-starting conversations with people who may have shied away from this previously.
“Mental health and physical health go hand in hand and I am looking forward to seeing what activities are going to be launched and encourage everyone to engage with the campaign as much as possible.”
Join the conversation on Twitter @NU_foundation using #BeAGameChanger.
We hear lots of good intentions when it comes to mental health and football, but what is actually being done? Read our articles, Happiful Mental Health Survey: Premier League Football and Football League Kicks Off Partnership With Mind Mental Health Charity.
If you are worried about your mental health, Counselling Directory can help. Search for therapists in your area by entering your location in the box below.