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Tuesday 15 October 2013

League clubs back World Mental Health Day

Premier League clubs back series of initiatives to raise awareness of mental health issues

  • Everton manager Roberto Martinez meets players from the 'Imagine Your Goals' programme

  • Crystal Palace full-back Joel Ward inspires players from Croydon Eagles

  • Swansea City staged a 'Be Well’ event attended by 181 people from Neath Port Talbot

  • Tigers Trust had a stall with Mind and Humber NHS to promote their community work

  • Tigers Trust have set up an Inclusion League to aid prisoners with mental health issues

  • Manchester United Foundation's Steve Hoy (left) with Eddy Newman, of WCHG

Everton, Hull City, Manchester United and Swansea City were among the clubs to give their backing to World Mental Health Day last week as they promoted a series of initiatives to raise awareness of the problem.

"I have always found that you learn more about yourself from your failures than you do from your successes and it is about how you cope with this using the support around you"
Roberto Martinez

World Mental Health Day falls on 10 October and is an internationally recognised day when efforts are made to shed light on mental health issues and tackle the stigma and discrimination often associated with them.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez helped Everton in the Community and Mersey Care NHS Trust mark the day by welcoming players from the 'Imagine Your Goals' mental health programme to the club's training complex, Finch Farm.

The Spaniard offered his insight into dealing with the mental pressures of being a Premier League football manager and discussed the mental health issues and pressures he has experienced in professional sport.

"It was great to meet the guys and listen to their stories about how they have turned their lives around and feel good about themselves," Martinez told the club's website. "I have always found that you learn more about yourself from your failures than you do from your successes and it is about how you cope with this using the support around you."

Imagine your goals

"We support anyone who needs this sort of help through Everton in the Community and I am so impressed with the work they do for local people. Imagine Your Goals has been very successful and is an example to other football clubs to follow."

One in four people in the UK will suffer a mental health issue at some stage in their lives and often suffer in silence. Everton in the Community in partnership with mental health service provider Mersey Care NHS Trust developed an exercise programme called 'Imagine Your Goals' in 2007, which has since benefited hundreds of people across Merseyside.

The programme offers local people who are living with mental health issues an opportunity to talk about their problems and seek help and support in a familiar environment. There have been many successes from the programme, including players who have got fitter, feel better, have made friends and gone on to do coaching qualifications, volunteering and enter employment.

In 2008 NHS partner Mersey Care NHS Trust jointly funded an initial three-year programme with the Premier League and PFA Community Fund, enabling Everton to become the first Premier League club in the country to appoint a full-time mental health football co-ordinator.

Hull City Tigers Trust

Imagine Your Goals has been adopted by other Premier League clubs up and down the country, including Hull City, whose community arm, Hull City Tigers Trust, also contributed to World Mental Health Day.  

"Service users spoke about their experiences, how they have been diagnosed and how the project has got them back involved in society and helped them in a positive way"
Chris Bloed

At an event organised by the mental health charity MIND, and Humber NHS, Hull City Tigers Trust set up a stall at Hull Interchange, the bus depot in the city centre, to spread the word about the services available for people suffering from mental health problems. There they engaged with large groups of people, while children got the opportunity to meet Rory the Tiger, the club's mascot.

"The day went really well," Chris Bloed, Hull City Tigers Trust community health officer, told "We had a lot of people come forward. The NHS were there handing out freebies and Rory attracted quite a crowd, it was good because lots of kids came down to speak with Rory. At the same time we used it as a way to link up with the community and talk to people in an informal manner about any problems they might have and also just socialise and promote well-being.

"Quite a few parents who might be struggling just now in what is quite a deprived area, got the chance to find out about the sessions we put on throughout the week that might be of help to them. There were service users there who spoke about their experiences, how they have been diagnosed and how the project has got them back involved in society and helped them in a positive way."

Tigers Trust have been working closely with the Humber NHS partnership, with whom they set up an 11-a-side Inclusion League in February. In conjunction with a secure unit which caters for prisoners who have been diagnosed with mental illness, the Inclusion League enables the service users to play football matches alongside other member of the community who are suffering, or have suffered, from various mental health problems, as well as staff from the unit, such as psychologists and cleaners.

"It is the first league of its kind in the country," added Bloed. "Everybody’s equal, it's a level playing field and it's an informal form of clinical analysis which helps reduce anxiety, the theory being that physical well-being helps mental well-being."

Crystal Palace fund-raiser

Crystal Palace recognised World Mental Health Day with a football match held at their Academy Dome, where a representative team, the Croydon Eagles, took on a Charlton Athletic XI, the Status Addicks, in a South London Grassroots League fixture that was specially re-arranged in order to raise vital funds and awareness for people suffering from mental health issues including depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

"It's brilliant to see all this that goes on behind the scenes to support our fans and local people"
Joel Ward

Among the watching crowd at the game was Palace defender Joel Ward, who took time to have a kick around with the Eagles players during their pre-match warm up, and the full-back inspired the Eagles to a 15-1 victory.

"It's great to be a part of what's going on outside of the club and outside of the football," said Ward. "It's a massive part of the club. As players, we are very privileged to be in the position we are. To come and see everyone getting involved in the community is fantastic and it's brilliant to see all this that goes on behind the scenes to support our fans and local people."

Michael Harrington, from the Crystal Palace Football Club Foundation, added: "They train on a weekly basis at the dome, they've been together for three or four years, formed their own team and are basically running it themselves. It's great to see. The gents and ladies can come to us very shy. They want to play football and get involved but can be very insular. They get brought into the family very quickly and they really enjoy it and make friends."

Friends were also made at Swansea City, who staged an event involving no fewer than 21 charities and organisations to mark Mental Health Day. The organisations showcased the many services they provide for people in need at the 'Be Well' event, which was attended by almost 200 people from the Neath Port Talbot area. The attendees received expert information about how to improve their health and well-being, where to go to seek help and details of the good work undertaken by the likes of The Samaritans, Neath Port Lives and Acorn.

Manchester tournament

Manchester United marked the occasion with a five-a-side football tournament hosted by Manchester United Foundation and Wythenshawe Community Housing Group [WCHG] at Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre in Wythenshawe. Teams from all over Greater Manchester, involving players who may have experienced problems with mental health, took part.

"It's so important for Manchester United to do things like this because there is probably somebody on every street corner who is suffering"
David Holroyd

"We were hoping to make people aware that it was World Mental Health Day, so it was a five a-side tournament, which will culminate in the final at the Cliff Training Ground in two weeks' time," said Manchester United Foundation's health project coordinator, Steve Hoy. "The majority of the guys here will have a mental-health issue of some description.  

"We've had teams from Bury, Prestwich and Cheatham Hill; these guys are from varying backgrounds, some are in hostels, one or two of them are living rough, so it's an event for them where they can take a day out and enjoy themselves.

"I'm a great believer in people confronting taboo subjects, so that is what today was about. We've actually got a person here, who has contemplated suicide, but there might be other people with issues at home and that is depressing them. The more we confront it and the more it becomes normality; the more people will be open to getting the relevant support to progress in life, instead of suffering in isolation at home."

Manchester United's team was made up of participants from its Men's Health project in Wythenshawe, which uses football to improve all aspects of health in young men. One participant who has seen a huge benefit from attending the weekly project is David Holroyd from Salford.

"I've suffered from anxiety and depression since the death of my son back in 2011," said the 33-year-old. "For 12 months I just kept myself near enough locked away. I realised I couldn't keep on living like that and that my son wouldn't want that either, so I started doing some voluntary work and coming to these groups.

"The project is for a group of men with all different problems and needs, we just get together for a couple of hours, have a kick-about and do a bit of fitness. It builds a lot of confidence. Normally I don't talk to people, but the more I get to play alongside them the more confidence I have. 

"It's so important for Manchester United to do things like this because there is probably somebody on every street corner who is suffering similar problems to me and if the help is there they should have the opportunity to use it."

Swansea City Community Trust

The Trust's partner project, Neath Port Talbot Hearty Lives, helped run an event giving individuals affected by mental health an opportunity to try out a range of therapies, gather information and attend various workshops. The day was a success with 180 people attending.

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Key Points

  • Barclays Premier League clubs mark World Mental Health Day
  • Everton, Hull City, Crystal Palace, Manchester United and Swansea City among those involved
  • Crystal Palace's Joel Ward and Everton manager Roberto Martinez spare their time to get involved with mental health initiative days