The Mental Health Awareness in Football Evening, organised
by The Norfolk Women’s and Girls League, attracted over 80 players, coaches and
referees to the Nest on Tuesday 22nd January.
The evening was
focused around raising awareness of Mental Health and tackling the stigma that
surrounds the subject. Ruth Fox, Mental Health advocate and published author,
who was the inspiration behind the evening, was unable to attend as a result of
her recent struggles with her mental health but still featured prominently in
Louise Riseborough, the evening’s main organiser came to the
stage to read a chapter of Ruth’s book ‘Between the White Lines’. The chapter
detailed Ruth’s struggles with Mental Health and the effect football has had on
her life. The chapter spoke of Ruth’s aspirations of the footballing world and
how much work is still to be done by football as a whole to support players who
are struggling with their mental health, at all levels of the game. It also
covered how mental and physical health should be seen as equally as important
in a player’s life.
Ruth Fox, ‘Between the White Lines’
“Football clubs are often hubs in the community. They're a
coming together of friends, family, and even strangers - all there to watch the
beautiful game. In my opinion more needs to be done up and down the country to
use the resources we have within clubs. We should use the magnitude of people
involved in football to really push to raise awareness of mental health,
whether that be through community trusts, mental health groups, helplines for
players or conversations between managers and the players. Player welfare
should be of vital importance, from grassroots level up to the level of
international football. Football would really benefit from more emotional
support for those who need it, regardless of the level of play they are
“A player who is mentally unwell is vulnerable. They could
be unsafe, in a far more dangerous way than if they had a graze or twisted
ankle. As a manager or coach you have a duty of care. You need to be able to
deal with someone opening up to you about mental illness, suicidal thoughts,
“If a footballer has a physical injury, we give them
sympathy. We send them a card in hospital if they've broken their leg. We wish
them well in their recovery and rehab. Well, what do we do if they're in
hospital for their mental health, as I was in November? I think I had two
messages from team mates and no visits.
Mental and physical health can stand side by side. Within
this beautiful game, we can ensure that everybody has the ability to reach
their full potential and positively impact the lives of those around them.”
Toby Nickerson, the evening’s host, then welcomed special
guest, Cedric Anselin Ex-professional Footballer, to the stage were Toby
directed a question and answer session with him. Cedric spoke very openly
around his struggles with his mental health during different stages of his
life. He highlighted the importance of having the right people around him and
his advice for others dealing with mental health problems.
Louise returned to the stage to talk around the league’s
plans for supporting the mental health of all involved within their league. She
outlined exciting plans to have a designated Club Mental Health Support Officer
at each club within the league. The training for this officer to be funded by
the league and provided by Mind. She explained that the League will also have a
Mental Health Support Officer who will provide help for Club Support Officers
should they need it, via a designated support line.
The evening was rounded up by Paolo, from Norwich Mind, who
discussed various initiatives run by the charity in Norwich, as well as further
details on the course they will be providing on behalf of the league.
If you are a member of the Norfolk Women’s and Girls League
and would like to express an interest in becoming your club’s Mental Health
Support Officer, please click on the following link.