Josh's Story: 'The Foundation rescued me from a dark place'
For Josh Banyard, it was hard to admit he was struggling. From the outside, his life looked perfect. But on the inside, Josh was in a dark place.
The 33-year-old worked hard to carve out a new life for himself in the North East, more than 300 miles away from his birthplace in Bromley, South East London.
Holding down a managerial job and spending time with his partner and two children, Josh did not make time for himself – instead burdening his responsibilities in silence.
“Men aren’t always the best at opening up and sharing their problems,” Josh said. “Men are often struggling with their mental health and don’t realise there is support out there or that it’s normal to not feel normal.
“I found out about Newcastle United Foundation’s Be A Game Changer campaign on Facebook. The group is a safe environment, without judgement or hate, where people who barely know each other can be open and honest.
“Social media isn’t always a place people expect to find support – it’s usually the opposite – so to find a group full of like-minded, sympathetic and understanding people has been amazing.
“Be A Game Changer has completely changed my outlook on life and has quite simply rescued me from a dark place which could have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for the amazing work of the Foundation.”
Newcastle United Foundation launched the Be A Game Changer campaign in February 2019 to encourage football fans to talk more openly about their mental wellbeing.
United by NUFC and a love for the beautiful game, the Foundation aims to get more men talking about how they are feeling, whether that is in the stands, at the pub or with their GP.
“Since getting involved with the Be A Game Changer campaign, I’ve opened up about my own experiences and spoken out on social media,” added Josh.
“I’ve asked for support from family and friends and have taken steps towards looking after myself and giving myself a positive outlook on life.
“There is support out there for anyone who needs it and there are other people out there who feel exactly like you do. It is so important to open up and share your problems.
“This campaign means so much to me and being able to help people has been a true blessing.
“Newcastle United Foundation are doing such amazing work battling stigmas around mental health and I’m proud to be an active part of it.”
With the right support and guidance, Josh is now able to balance his time between work and family life with volunteer work at the Foundation and checking in with his own mental health.
Josh now regularly attends the Foundation’s Men’s Peer Support Group – Howay Inn – where Magpies supporters gather at St. James’ Park to share their feelings in a safe, respectful environment.
The customer trading manager at Falconar Street Sainsbury’s is now looking forward to experiencing the upcoming CEO Sleepout at St. James’ Park in spring, raising money for charities including the Foundation to support young people at risk of homelessness.
He also helped launched Newcastle United Foundation’s partnership with Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light to bring Be A Game Changer to Wearside, putting rivalries aside to promote mental health awareness.
“I would encourage anyone struggling at the moment to come along and see what Be A Game Changer can do for you. We are all brothers together so please don’t be afraid to talk and open up – it might save a life.”
Within one year, more than 1.7 million people have been reached by #BeAGameChanger on social media and more than 700 men are currently engaged with health and wellbeing activities, including walking football, over-40s NHS health checks, specific mental health sessions with MAN v FAT and the 12th Man programme. For more information, visit nufoundation.org.uk/beagamechanger
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