Men supported by #BeAGameChanger share mental health matters on World Suicide Prevention Day
More than 3.6 million social media users have been reached by Newcastle United Foundation’s #BeAGameChanger mental health campaign in just seven months.
In February 2019, #BeAGameChanger launched to encourage Newcastle United supporters to talk about their mental health and recognise when their loved ones may be struggling.
To raise awareness of mental health issues this World Suicide Prevention Day, some of the 700 men who have been supported into the Foundation’s wellbeing activities have shared their stories of overcoming depression, grief and suicidal thoughts.
Newcastle United Foundation Health and Wellbeing Manager Ashley Lowe said: “We know that the North East has one of the highest rates of suicide and that suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49.
“Given that we have a community united by a love of football, we were confident that the power of the Newcastle United badge could be a catalyst for much-needed conversations amongst men, and a great way to break down stigma and feelings of shame or isolation.”
Figures published in September 2019 revealed the North East region has the highest male suicide rate in the country and that of all recorded suicides, 75 per cent of those taking their own lives are men.
Ashley added: “It’s a well-known fact that one in four people experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. But to really bring the message home, our campaign equated that to almost 13,000 fans at every Newcastle United home game – or an entire crowd in the Milburn stand.
“It’s a very powerful message when fans who regularly attend matches can visualise it in this way.”
The #BeAGameChanger Facebook community is a growing source of comfort, advice and practical information for those experiencing mental health issues or friends and relatives supporting someone else.
In a survey conducted with more than the 860 members of the community, 70 per cent stated the #BeAGameChanger campaign has changed the way they think about mental health and 40 per cent said they had since opened up to someone about their own mental health.
One supporter who has found hope and support through the campaign is Les Peacock. He said: “I’ve lived through periods of quite severe depression, but I felt too embarrassed to talk about it openly.
“However, since taking part in the campaign, I’ve found more support and have been able to help others too. The #BeAGameChanger campaign has made a huge difference and changed my life for the better.”
The #BeAGameChanger campaign, which in funded by Newcastle City Council and the Premier League PFA Community Fund, delivers hours of community sessions each week to support mental wellbeing.
Of those projects is Walking Football, which not only provides an opportunity for gentle exercise with a coach, but also a pressure-free environment to socialise with like-minded participants. Those joining the sessions are also signposted to free over-40s NHS health checks, specific mental health sessions with MAN v FAT and 12th Man programmes.
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