Written by Christos Louca, Disability Coordinator, Rotherham United Community Sports Trust
Mental health tends to be a taboo subject amongst men, while it is well-known that males commonly keep their issues and struggles to themselves rather than opening up and speaking about their feelings. For these reasons, we launched #Headinthegame at Rotherham United Community Sports Trust with the help of funding from the Bupa UK Foundation Mid-Life Mental Health Funding Programmme.
The aim of the project is to identify men at risk of poor mental health and signpost, as well as refer them to local support services to seek early help. Through the project, we hope to reduce social isolation, increase community integration and improve both physical and mental wellbeing amongst middle-aged men who, for whatever reason, whether it be work stress, being financially worried, or a general feeling of being fed up, are at risk of poor mental health.
According to recent studies, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical wellbeing, while poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health issues. Our project focuses on both physical and emotional wellbeing by offering a combination of free weekly physical exercise sessions and free monthly wellbeing workshops at the ASSEAL New York Stadium.
The physical sessions are based around the activity of football while the workshops provide advice and support around managing stress, improving confidence, understanding anxiety and depression and more.
I’m delighted the project has already led to partnerships with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC), Northern College, and Rotherham and Barnsley Mind, which will help increase its reach and improve the support we are able to offer those who participant.
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council recently delivered the first mental health based workshop focusing on Suicide Awareness and Prevention. The environment that was created provided a platform for participants to offer their suggestions and ideas in regards to future schemes to raise awareness of suicide. The responses were deemed effective by RMBC, leading to them requesting the group act as a steering group for such schemes and campaigns going forward.
To further promote the project, we plan to design beer mats detailing the project. The idea is to place them in pubs nearby the New York Stadium to target male fans who attend home games. Following consultation with a male group it was decided that beer mats would be more effective than posters due to the unlikelihood of men stopping to read a poster.
With last month marking World Mental Health Day and Movember this month putting a spotlight on men’s health issues to raise awareness, it’s important we continue to encourage men to talk about both their physical and mental wellbeing. I strongly believe more projects like this are needed across the country, and around the world, to reach individuals who are unlikely to seek professional support, whereas community-based intervention would be more readily welcomed. This would enable the potential for intervening at the earliest possible stage in an attempt to reduce social isolation and increase community integration.