Toon fans at the heart of new mental health campaign
Newcastle United Foundation have launched a campaign encouraging Newcastle United fans to take a proactive approach to looking after their mental health.
'Be a Game Changer', funded by Newcastle City Council and the Premier League PFA Community Fund, aims to raise awareness, and change perception of mental health issues. The campaign will encourage fans to take action to look after their mental health, in a similar way they would look after their physical health.
The campaign will include real life stories from fans who have experienced mental health issues, information and tips to support mental wellbeing, education workshops, signposting to specialist services as well as match day activities at St. James' Park.
Research by Newcastle United Foundation shows that even though one in four people will experience a mental health problem, there is still stigma which discourages people, especially men, from talking about it.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 20-49 across England and Wales and in 2017 and it is reported that the North East had the highest number of suicides in the UK (source: Office of National Statistics).
Head of Newcastle United Foundation Kate Bradley said: "Last season the Foundation delivered 686,616 hours of physical activity across all programmes which generated £12.6m in health and wellbeing benefits for the North East.
"We know that mental health is as important as physical health which is why we are proud to launch this campaign with Newcastle City Council and the Premier League to support Newcastle United fans."
Ashley Lowe, Health and Wellbeing Manager at Newcastle United Foundation, added: "Mental health problems affect one in four of us - to put that in perspective that's 13,000 people at every home game at St. James' Park.
"Stress, anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, muscle tension and headaches. Exercise and talking are both proven to help so we want to help men, and their family and friends, by giving them the tools to improve their own mental wellbeing."
Scott Carpenter, a recent Foundation Health and Wellbeing programme participant, commented: "Now I know that statistically when I am sat in my seat at St. James' Park there are likely to be another 12,000 fans around me facing similar struggles that I faced. If I had known that years ago I think I would have had the courage to speak up about my problems and not been embarrassed to tell my family."
Newcastle United's longest serving former player, and Newcastle United Foundation Trustee, Steve Harper, said: "At the age of 30, I realised something wasn't right but didn’t know what it was at the time. I tried to battle it myself but it's impossible and I eventually opened up to my wife and some good people at the football club.
"Talking about it and sharing what I was going through really helped me and you soon realise that you're not alone and it is very common. The darkness closes in on you and you can struggle to see the good in anything. Having suffered from it, you can then recognise and deal with it better if you ever start to feel the same way."
Councillor Kim McGuinness, cabinet member for culture, sport and public health at Newcastle City Council said: "I am pleased that Newcastle City Council are supporting this important campaign. "Everyone has mental health and one in four of us will experience ill mental health. Supporting people to open up about what is having a negative impact on their lives is an important step in changing this.
"The power of the Newcastle United Foundation's brand and the communities this can reach will help to engage people from across the city, kickstarting conversations with people who may have shied away from this previously.
"Mental health and physical health go hand in hand and I am looking forward to see what activities are going to be launched and encourage everyone to engage with the campaign as much as possible."
Newcastle United Foundation is encouraging people to engage with the campaign across its social media channels:
Twitter: @NU_Foundation #BeAGameChanger
Facebook: @NewcastleUnitedFoundation #BeAGAmeChanger
For more information on Be a Game Changer and support please visit https://nufoundation.org.uk/BeAGameChanger