Norfolk Women's and Girls' Mental Health Awareness Evening
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 the evening.
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 involved in.”
“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, and self-harm.”
“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.