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Newcastle United Foundation helping people tackle mental health issues through football

Mental Health Campaign Photo: ITV News

By Kris Jepson

On the day Prince William launched a new campaign that uses football to get men talking about their mental health, the Newcastle United Foundation has told ITV News Tyne Tees it has already helped hundreds of men and women deal with aspects of their mental wellbeing through football and educational sessions.

The North East recorded the highest rate of suicides in 2017 and that is why the Foundation says it is important to offer such programmes like its #BeAGameChanger initiative, which launched in February and has already engaged with more than 350 active members and a further 429 members on Facebook.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

One group of men meet each week to take part in a game of walking football at West Denton Leisure Centre.

Charity worker, Darin Lambton, attended during Mental Health Awareness Week and told ITV News he can see the benefits football brings.

Because you get such a rush of endorphins and stuff, it takes everything out of your head, like after the football. So like for a good three or four hours afterwards, you know, you’re thinking about how the match went, have you had any chances, have you scored a goal, it’s just a whole like life mentality changes through like playing sports.

– Darin Lambton
Alec Wilson Credit: ITV News

Another man, Alec Wilson, who supported a relative who was diagnosed with depression, said the initiative has opened his eyes to how depression and anxiety can affect people and their families.

That word depression wasn’t even, would never have even been in my vocabulary. I wouldn’t, even, you know, if somebody said are you depressed? I wouldn’t have went to the doctors, well I wouldn’t have known where to go, but now, since that incident and now you see all different people, if I did need help then it’s there and I know it’s out there.

– Alec Wilson
Walking football Credit: ITV News

The members of staff who work for the Newcastle United Foundation told ITV News the programme is aimed at breaking down the barriers of language surrounding mental health, to make it more accessible to people who find it difficult to talk about their feelings.

Oliver Bell, from the Foundation, said "we talk about things like sleep and stress and anger and coping mechanisms to those issues and that can help men to understand what mental health is without calling it mental health and without describing as mental health."

We’re raising awareness about the fact that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem at any point in our lives. To put that into perspective, it’s 13,000 people at a Newcastle home game so it’s a lot of people. So that could be anxiety, it could be depression or it could be stress. So we’re trying to raise awareness of things that you can do such as socialising with your friends, getting involved in exercise, even if that’s just going for a walk, helping out with other people is a really big thing as well that can boost your mental wellbeing, so really accessible, simply tips.

– Ashley Lowe, NUFC Foundation