An amazing new scheme has just been launched in Belfast to help thousands of footballers look after their mental health.
Dozens of local clubs have been coming together to raise awareness about the issue and educate members on how to deal with depression.
The scheme was sparked after a recent rise in suicides, as latest figures show that between 2014 and 2015 registered suicides increased from 268 to 318.
Sadly, one club manager told Belfast Live that he knows three people who have taken their own lives in just the last 10 weeks.
Stephen Paul, Lower Shankill FC boss, told Belfast Live: “There was just a realisation that something had to done after so many deaths. I know of three people who have taken their own lives in the last ten weeks or so, all involved in football. It’s 15 to 34 year old men who seem to be the worst affected by suicide, we’re the people who don’t want to talk about our feelings, but that’s the people who are in football clubs all over Belfast and the people we are determined to reach.
“Ultimately, it’s about removing the stigma from mental health, about getting people to talk about their problems. Every time someone dies like this people say the same thing, that they didn’t see it coming. Well a big part of this is about us all learning to see the signs.
“By all coming together, hopefully we can make a real difference. It’s about making people realise it’s okay to ask for help, to admit you’re not okay.
“The clubs signed up so far are all well up for it and we’ve got a lot of stuff going on like plans for every player to go through the TalkSafe programme on mental health and at least one person from each club doing the two day course so they can deal with a crisis situation.
“There’s a Facebook page we set up for people involved in football to come and talk about issues and within a week it’s got nearly 3,000 people on it. I’ve seen people speaking freely about things in their lives that they never talked about before, so that’s a really positive start.”
So far 37 clubs, mainly in the Shankill and North and West Belfast area, have signed up for the scheme. The moves means more than 3,000 people will be given the opportunity to better understand mental health and, importantly according to campaigners, feel more comfortable about discussing their feelings.
As part of the programme, around 3,700 keyrings are being produced, with each club getting around 100 with their crest on one side and logos and phone numbers for mental health charities like Extern and Lifeline as well as the hashtag logo ‘ItsOkToTalk’. The keyrings will be sold with the money going towards booklets on mental health being produced for the clubs.
Check out the public group S.A.M.H.I on Facebook if you want to find out more and gain great support and inspiration.
Source: Belfast Live