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Andy Carroll backs Newcastle United Foundation's Be A Game Changer mental health awareness campaign for supporters at home on matchday

Thousands of supporters watching Newcastle United from home this weekend are being encouraged to open up on mental health matters as Newcastle United Foundation's Be A Game Changer campaign takes centre stage at St. James' Park.

Signposts to support and advice through the club's official charity arm will be visible throughout the Magpies' clash with Chelsea on Saturday afternoon, across all areas of the matchday.

United players will proudly wear Be A Game Changer T-shirts during their pre-match warm-up, with advertising boards, the stadium big screen and seat covers also providing campaign information.

Newcastle United striker and hometown hero Andy Carroll hopes supporters at home will be reassured by the Be A Game Changer messaging during a difficult time for many.

"It's really important for everyone to look after themselves right now," he said. "Not everyone can see their family or friends or do the things they normally would to feel good like meeting your mates or going to the gym or into town.

"It can be really tough, so check in with everyone you can and also listen to yourself. If you're feeling like you’re in a dark place, you can get out by speaking to other people or your GP.

"I'm proud to support the Be A Game Changer campaign as it's for our supporters and is a way for everyone to stay connected through the Foundation. I'd encourage anyone who is struggling to get involved with the Foundation and Be A Game Changer."

The Be A Game Changer initiative was launched by Newcastle United Foundation in February 2019, offering football supporters mental health advice and support to help recognise when they or their loved ones are in crisis.

During the summer lockdown, volunteering staff made 1,000 telephone calls to elderly and vulnerable individuals connected with the Foundation or the Magpies, checking in on their mental health and reducing feelings of loneliness. A further 500 people were given mental health advice through Be A Game Changer, and hardworking NHS staff were given support with their sleep and mental wellbeing at the height of the pandemic.

In recent weeks, Newcastle United Foundation staff welcomed back Walking Footballers to venues across Newcastle, giving older generations the chance to keep active, socialise and boost their mental wellbeing in a safe environment.

Ashley Lowe, Newcastle United Foundation health and Wellbeing Manager, said: "We hope that the visibility of Be A Game Changer at Saturday's game is a clear message for supporters out there - that we're here to help and talking about mental health is a positive thing to do.

"Sadly, our region has one of the worst suicide rates in the country and the knock-on effects of the pandemic on mental health for many people will be huge.

"We hope offering clear guidance will make a difference for the one in four of us who will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives."

Be A Game Changer is funded by Newcastle City Council, Premier League Charitable Fund and the North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network, providing a number of community sessions each week to support mental wellbeing.

Since its inception, the campaign message has reached more than two million social media users, with thousands of United supporters now part of a growing Facebook community support group and more than 800 men engaged in Foundation Health and Wellbeing activities.

Saturday's matchday activity is part of the club's work in the fields of diversity, inclusion and welfare through the United As One initiative.

For more information about Be A Game Changer or for help and advice from Newcastle United Foundation, visit nufoundation.org.uk/beagamechanger.

"It's really important for everyone to look after themselves right now. Not everyone can see their family or friends or do the things they normally would to feel good like meeting your mates or going to the gym or into town."

Andy Carroll

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