Mental Health Matters for Kent footballers

Monday 07th September 2015

As part of the World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, Kent County Council is unveiling a new campaign with the Kent County Football League to tackle mental health and wellbeing among men.

It’s estimated that over one million men in the UK suffer from chronic loneliness and social isolation.

In Kent and Medway, suicide is the largest cause of death among people aged 25 to 44 – there were 182 suicides in 2013, 144 of these were men.

The Kent County Football League has teamed up with Kent County Council to raise the issue of men’s mental health and to promote the Mental Health Matters helpline.

As part of the partnership, Kent County Council is also offering free Mental Health First Aid training to clubs within the league – this teaches people how to identify, understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health issue.

Spearheading the campaign is a professional footballer Tommy Sampson, who has locally coached clubs in Herne Bay, Tonbridge, Dartford and Deal.

He said: “In December 2007, I suffered a massive stroke.  In the aftermath of that dreadful event, for a number of years, I tumbled into a black hole of depression and self-pity.  I was fortunate to be referred to a Clinical neuropsychologist who, over the course of many months, counselled me and helped me back into the real world painlessly.”

Sampson, who won The FA Vase when he was Deal Town’s manager in 2000, added: “The term ‘mental health’ carries a stigma that we must fight to change.  I firmly believe that any initiative that makes it easier to talk through your issues in confidence can only be a positive move.  I wholeheartedly applaud this initiative and hope that together we can remove the stigma that surround mental health issues.”

World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September is organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organisation.

In 2015, the international theme is “Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives.”

Kent County Council Public Health Director Andrew Scott-Clark said: “If you broke your leg in a tackle, you would go to hospital and get it fixed but would you seek help if you were suffering from depression or another mental health condition?  Sadly many men don’t and they miss out on the help that could make a difference.

“Apart of our partnership strategy to reduce the number of suicides in the county, we want to remove the stigma around mental health, encourage men to share their issues and raise awareness of where people can go for help – we thank the Kent County Football League for allowing us this important opportunity.”

Nationally, football has suffered a number of high profile incidents with Wales manager Gary Speed taking his own life in 2011 and Clarke Carlisle discussing his depression and suicide attempt in early 2015.

Kent County League chairman Cyril Windiate said: “We are delighted to be involved with our partners in raising awareness of men’s mental health particularly when it is known that one in four people suffer a mental health illness every year, with men at particular risk of suicide.”

People feeling distressed, anxious or down are able to call the Mental Health Matters helpline for free on 0800 107 0160 (or 0300 330 5486 from a mobile).

Support workers at the helpline use counselling skills to provide confidential emotional support and guidance.  They also have details of local and national support services that callers may find useful. 

Support from the Mental Health Matters helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.