Inside Matters

Evan's story: How Premier League Inspires has helped my mental health

By Mark Orlovac 9 May 2024
Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Evan, Southampton

From having difficulties at mainstream school to presenting at Wembley Stadium, one teenager is now inspiring others with guidance from Saints Foundation

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"From where we've come from to ending up at Wembley Stadium, looking at all this, it's just amazing. I'm proud of us all."

This year's Premier League Inspires Challenge gave hundreds of young people across England and Wales the opportunity to produce social-action projects to help others with their mental health, as part of the Premier League's Inside Matters campaign.

For many of the participants, it was a project that was close to home.

Evan from Southampton was one of those young people.

Together with the rest of his team, Evan attends the Compass School, a specialist alternative provision for pupils with additional social, emotional and mental health needs.

"I struggled at school a lot when I was younger," he explains. "I had a difficult time at mainstream secondary school but after moving to the Compass School, I'm doing well."

It is here that Evan got involved with Southampton FC's Saints Foundation and the Premier League Inspires programme.

PL Inspires is delivered in partnership with the Professional Footballers' Association and supports 11–18-year-olds who may be at risk of not reaching their potential as they move through the education system and early adulthood.

And when the Saints Foundation school mentioned the opportunity of developing a mental health social-action project, Evan jumped at the chance to get involved.

"Knowing what I went through, it feels great for me to show this idea and give other people support," he says. "I can help out. It feels good.

"I wanted to get the point across that mental health matters and if you look at it correctly, if you look after yourself, open up to other people, it can help you a lot."

Evan and the rest of his team got to work and they came up with an idea of a lunchtime club for students, allowing them to get together and talk to teachers and other students.

Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Southampton

They also produced posters with quotes from students and teachers on how they have overcome difficulties and these  have been placed around the school to encourage conversations around mental health.

"We thought it would be a couple of us putting down our struggles," Evan says. "When the teachers joined in, it really helped. It makes us feel that we are not alone."

Evan and his team are not stopping there, though.

There are plans for the team to produce posters with quotes from men's and women's first-team players to be displayed at Southampton's St Mary's Stadium.

These posters would have a QR code that would offer the user the chance to get help or to talk to someone anonymously if they are struggling with mental health.

They also hope to increase their delivery by setting up an after-school club.

"This gives an opportunity to people with behaviour struggles," Evan says. "It can help you make more friends, it can help you communicate.

Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024, Southampton

"Being a part of Premier League Inspires has definitely helped with my mental health. I've learned a lot more about mental health and this understanding has helped me navigate my way through the difficulties."

The highlight of this year's Premier League Inspires Challenge was a celebration event at Wembley Stadium, where teams representing 45 clubs came together to present their social-action ideas and meet other young people from across England and Wales.

And for Evan, being at such a special event highlighted how much progress he has made.

"Considering where I was two years ago, I would not think that I would end up at Wembley Stadium with a school, representing Southampton," he says. "This has showed me what I can achieve.

Premier League Inspires Challenge 2024

"This programme has opened up a lot more opportunities for me to make friends, it's helped me mature, it's helped me gain a better understanding of mental health. It's just been beneficial all round.

"It feels great to be a part of this. For our group, from where we've come from to ending up at Wembley Stadium, looking at all this, it's just amazing. I'm proud of us all."

What is Premier League Inspires?

Premier League Inspires uses the appeal of football to help children and young people aged 11-18 to develop the personal skills and positive attitude to succeed in life. More than 29,000 young people have received more than 125,000 hours of targeted support across 960+ schools and educational facilities since the programme's launch in 2019.

The programme is delivered by 45 professional football club community organisations and is supported by the Professional Footballers' Association and the Premier League. More than £11.1m has been invested into the programme, via the Premier League Charitable Fund.

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

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