Great Britain

Newcastle and Sunderland Foundations unite for mental health awareness this Blue Monday

AN age-old inter-city rivalry is being set aside by Newcastle and Sunderland as their club’s Foundations team up to raise mental health awareness in the North-East as part of a new campaign.

#BeAGameChanger will showcase Newcastle United Foundation and Sunderland AFC’s official charity, Foundation of Light’s, commitment to promoting positive mental health to thousands of supporters visiting St. James’ Park and the Stadium of Light season after season.

Figures published late last year revealed the region has the highest male suicide rate in the country, and of all recorded suicides in the region, 75 per cent of those taking their own lives are men.

Together, the new partnership sends the clear message: whether you’re in a park or a stadium, #BeAGameChanger and kick-off the conversation about mental health.

Funded by the North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network, Newcastle and Sunderland AFC supporters will be signposted to #BeAGameChanger information using match day LED screens, cards and social media for the remainder of the 2019/20 season.

Wellness sessions will be delivered each week in the community by both foundations, including walking football which provides an opportunity for gentle exercise with a coach, as well as a pressure-free environment to socialise with like-minded participants.

Those joining the sessions will also be signposted to a range of programmes offered by the foundations, including free over-40s NHS health checks and specific mental health sessions.

Ashley Lowe, health and wellbeing manager at Newcastle United Foundation, said: “It is incredibly powerful to see Newcastle and Sunderland fans standing side-by-side.

“Both cities are united by their love of football and we are using that passion for the two badges to start potentially life-saving conversations amongst supporters.

“Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49 and one in four fans coming to St. James’ Park and the Stadium of Light will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

“It is crucial we take meaningful action to reduce stigma, encourage men to access support and to make mental and physical wellbeing our top priority.”

Liz Barton-Jones, head of sport and wellbeing at Foundation of Light, said: “The #BeAGameChanger campaign will be potentially life-changing for fans across the region.

“We are proud to be working with the Newcastle United Foundation on this fantastic project, putting football rivalries aside to encourage people to show their support for their friends and family.

“Our message is clear – no matter whether you’re a Mackem or a Geordie, look out for each other and don’t be afraid to ask the question ‘are you ok?’.”

For more information visit nufoundation.org.uk/beagamechanger or foundationoflight.co.uk/beagamechanger.