As Newcastle United Foundation reaches the half-time point in the first year of its mental health campaign, it has reported that messages have reached millions through social media, and over 700 men hundred have engaged in wellbeing activities organised by the charity held on Tyneside.
The #BeAGameChanger campaign launched in February with the aim of getting more Newcastle United fans talking about mental health. In its first month, it reached over 3.6million through social media, and has encouraged Newcastle United fans to share their personal story through social and traditional media, including several whose stories were shared by national media titles.
In a survey conducted by the Foundation through its new #BeAGameChanger Facebook community, which now has over 860 members, 70% stated that the campaign has changed the way they think about mental health, and 40% said they had since opened up to someone they know about their own mental health.
Ashley Lowe, Health and Wellbeing Manager at Newcastle United Foundation 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 20-49.
“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.
“It’s a well-known fact that 1 in 4 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 the entire crowd in the Milburn stand. It’s a very powerful message when fans who regularly attend matches can visualise it in this way.”
One fan 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 project, which has been funded by Newcastle City Council and the Premier League PFA Community Fund, has also delivered many hours of community sessions to support mental wellbeing and raise awareness. This has included walking football, which not only provides gentle exercise but also encourages participants to take part in social activities, over 40s health checks, specific mental health sessions on the MAN v FAT and 12th Man programmes and the delivery of mental health first aid courses.
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