Inside Matters

John's story: Wolves Foundation has been a lifeline for me

9 May 2024
John, Head 4 Health, Wolves Foundation

How the Head 4 Health programme has played a vital role in helping one participant with his mental health

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As part of this year's Inside Matters campaign, we are showcasing the many ways in which Premier League clubs are engaging with communities to raise awareness of mental health.

Warning: This story contains references to suicide

John (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

John is a lifelong Wolves fan and for over three years has been involved in the Wolves Foundation's Head 4 Health programme, which aims to improve the mental well-being of adults through educational workshops and physical activity.

Head 4 Health has been supported by the Premier League and Professional Footballers' Association's Community Fund, which enables clubs across England and Wales to develop and deliver community programmes that are tailored to needs in their local area.

This is his story.

"I was diagnosed with depression some years ago. In March 2018 I drove away from Wolverhampton and to the coast, where I intended to end it all. Fortunately the rational side of my brain intervened and life settled down again.

"I retired from work later that year and found things to do until, in November 2019, I once again felt things were so hopeless that I drove away with the same intentions. This time, contacted by members of my family and community, the police intervened.

"I decided I needed some help. I went along to a session run by a local group. Listening to somebody talking to a group of 10-12 of us and then being told to look at leaflets did nothing for me.

"A chance encounter some days later saw me being referred to Head 4 Health. In January 2020 I drove to Molineux for my first meeting, having spent the previous few days coming up with every excuse and reason I could as to why I shouldn't go. It took ages for me to walk through the door, when I did I found another nine blokes just like me.

"The staff were easy to talk to, they encouraged and advised us; it was a safe space. No recriminations. It immediately felt comforting. I left that evening feeling a little more optimistic - I had managed to talk a bit about my challenges and people listened without judgement.

"I returned the following week. We enjoyed the sessions, which were a mixture of talking, physical activities, and getting to know and understand each other - until COVID-19 hit. No meetings, in fact no anything. A low point just when things were starting to get a little better.

"But Head 4 Health then introduced online meetings; connections were made once more and we had something other than the daily walk or weekly shop to look forward to.

"After a while, Walk and Talk sessions were introduced. We got out of the house, we could exercise and talk. It was so good! We even got to feature in our own music video with footage of us walking around the park, talking and laughing. We sang "With A Little Help From My Friends". This is one of my happiest memories.

"The Extra Time meetings have become a lifeline for me. An important aspect of these meetings is that everybody has a chance to talk. The rule is that we respect each other, respect what people have to say and we listen.

"Discussions take place and people can offer their support. I have found that although I am not the most talkative of the group, there are times when I can offer help to others. That is so important to me.

John, Head 4 Health, Wolves Foundation v2

"These sessions are also used to bring in outside agencies to give talks and offer advice. From NHS nurses on prostate cancer, to drug and alcohol awareness, to the issues of gambling addictions, and a yoga session aimed at wellbeing. The added bonus is that these meetings take place overlooking the Molineux pitch!

"We come from different backgrounds with different experiences and facing different struggles. But, in that room on a Wednesday evening, we come together and there is no judgement. No struggle is too small and nothing is unimportant. We trust each other. Whatever is discussed and talked about in that room stays in that room, in our hearts, and in our minds.

"Head 4 Health has given me a place where I can talk and it has given me another community, another group to which I belong.

"We are being continuously enabled by Wolves to talk, something that is not always easy for men to do. But it is absolutely vital in helping us deal with mental health issues.

"Without Head 4 Health I have sincere doubts whether I would be here. Their impact on my life has been huge.

John, Head 4 Health, Wolves Foundation v3

"It has been the mainstay of improving my mental health. Not only have I been able to enjoy the safe environment, I am also fortunate to access a 1-to-1 counselling course which enables me to get certain things clear in my head and help me understand why I felt as I did.

"The continuing contact with the team and those who attend are crucial to me. I know if I need to speak, somebody will be available. Sometimes I need someone who is a little more removed.

"Compared to where I was, I am in a much better place. I still have wobbles when certain outside influences affect me but I now have tools to manage these wobbles."

John's story was captured as part of a Premier League Charitable Fund and Goal Click collaboration to showcase the impact of the Premier League and Professional Footballers' Association Community Fund.

For further mental health support, fans can head to: Get help | Mental Health Foundation

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