All Premier League fixtures from 6 to 15 May were dedicated to the #InsideMatters campaign, which reinforces the League and clubs' commitment to supporting the mental wellbeing of players, fans and those in communities.
For Chloe, problems with negative and anxious thoughts were affecting her mental health on a daily basis.
“I was struggling a lot, and I was going through the diagnosis of autism, so that didn't make it any easier,” she says. “We were like, ‘I need some help.' ”
Chloe (pictured top right) got involved with the Aston Villa Foundation’s mental-health project TeamWork Plus, where young people are encouraged to open up and speak to a wellbeing practitioner during 12 weekly sessions at the club’s Villa Park stadium. Chloe’s mentor has been Olivia Hunt (pictured top left).
“Before the first session I was scared because I didn’t know what it’d be like,” says Chloe. “I didn’t know what she [Olivia] would be like, but then as soon as I started it, it was fine and I started talking to her a lot and trusted her, and then it just all came together since.”
Olivia says: “Having somewhere like Aston Villa where they can come, it kind of reduces that stigma of going to a clinical setting.
“They love coming here. The majority of young people I work with are Aston Villa supporters, so it’s somewhere that they feel comfortable coming to.”
Chloe can see the big differences that the sessions have had in improving her mental health.
“Before, I had no confidence, no self-esteem and I was struggling a lot,” she says. “But now, I have a lot of confidence, my self-esteem is high.
“I now understand parts of my autism and I deal with it better and know how to deal with stress. The bad days are better thanks to 'Liv'.
“Aston Villa have really helped in my life because it's got me to socialise more and create friendships that I will have for life. It’s one of the best things that I’ve ever done.”
'I see life differently'
Another participant who benefits from Villa's TeamWork Plus programme is someone who gangs have been actively trying to recruit. He is receiving support from Aston Villa youth mentor Ousmann Broomfield.
The participant, who is not being named, said: “It made me feel like there was a way out to be honest - I see life differently. Basically, I’m looking to get my coaching badge to start coaching, hopefully for Aston Villa but just in general with any team.”
Ousmann added: “He has spent time shadowing other coaches, working on mental health sessions. He’s impressed pretty much all the coaches he’s been with and the rest was him getting experience and building his confidence."
As part of the #InsideMatters campaign, the Premier League has collaborated with Shout, a free, confidential 24/7 text support service for anyone in the UK who is struggling to cope. The service was launched in 2019 and has since helped hundreds of thousands of people.
The Premier League and Shout have collaborated to offer support to Premier League fans in the UK. Anyone experiencing anxiety can text the word "TeamTalk" to 85258 to be connected with around-the-clock support from trained volunteers, supervised and supported in real time by an expert clinical team.
The Premier League has also published an Inside Matters handbook – which can be downloaded here – featuring tips and advice for understanding and tackling anxiety, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Download: Inside Matters Handbook (PDF; 6.4MB)