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Newcastle United Foundation team addressing inequalities in mental health support for North East communities

A Newcastle United Foundation initiative tackling disproportionate challenges many people face in accessing mental health support is providing a directory of services to help everyone to talk more openly about mental wellness.

The official charity arm of Newcastle United accessed vital funding from the National Lottery Coronavirus Community Support Fund to meet increased demand for mental health support as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Channelling the funding distributed by the National Lottery Community Fund into recruiting Azeem Ahmad as a Senior Project Officer within the charity’s Health and Wellbeing team, the Foundation began consulting and connecting with marginalised communities to find ways to support those in need.

And six months on from starting his position, Azeem has helped broaden the Foundation’s Be A Game Changer mental health awareness campaign to be more inclusive and culturally sensitive for all North East residents.

Newcastle United Foundation Senior Project Officer Azeem Ahmad, said: “The pandemic has been mentally challenging for all of us, but we do know that existing issues felt disproportionately by people from ethnic minorities have been further exacerbated in the past year.

“Existing research already demonstrates that Black people are less likely to access mental health support in primary care settings and more likely to end up in crisis care. I know from personal experience that attitudes towards mental health in Asian communities are progressing, just as they are in wider society.

“With this in mind, we have taken our Be A Game Changer campaign, encouraging Newcastle United supporters to talk openly about their mental health, and adapted it to reach beyond supporters who predominantly identify as white British men.

“The mental health support services directory takes into account that not all mainstream care services can offer a culturally-sensitive approach that some individuals need for positive outcomes.

“We hope this guide reinforces the message that if you are struggling, you are not alone, and there is help out there from someone who can fully empathise with you – no matter what your background is.”

He added: “The power of the Newcastle United crest opens up so many conversations with community leaders, religious groups and local authorities across the region and inclusive Be A Game Changer messaging, materials and workshops are really helping to unite us all further.”

Funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund made possible by the Government has also seen the Foundation’s Health and Wellbeing team deliver inclusive language workshops to Walking Football participants and Football Talks sessions to clients of the West End Refugee Service in Newcastle.

Azeem added: “We can’t expect attitudes and behaviours to change in society if education around inclusivity stops as soon as we leave school or college.

“We believe that stigma is one of the main reasons stopping people from reaching out for help with their mental health, so we can all work together to be more accepting, supportive and understanding of others.”

The Be A Game Changer mental health support services directory will be made available to download online and shared with community organisations across the North East.

The directory complements a number of other campaign materials raising mental health awareness among football supporters under the Be A Game Changer banner, including campaign posters translated into Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin Chinese and Urdu to support the specific needs of the North East community.

More than 400 posters will be distributed among the community to be displayed in ethnic supermarkets, takeaways and on parish notice boards.

Steve Beharall, Head of Newcastle United Foundation, said: “We are incredibly proud to be challenging stigmas surrounding mental health through Be A Game Changer and attitudes that particularly affect people from ethnic minorities in our region.

“As part of our United As One initiative and activities undertaken by our Foundation and Newcastle, we continue to promote inclusion, diversity and welfare values within football and our society.”

Be A Game Changer is funded by Newcastle City CouncilPremier 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.

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


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