Pompey are delighted to support Solent Mind at this afternoon’s League One match against Gillingham.
And a couple of Blues players took time out after training on Thursday to show their backing for the cause
Ronan Curtis and Anton Walkes teamed up with club ambassador Alan Knight and Daniel Warren-Holland from the charity to back the campaign, which coincides with World Mental Health Day on October 10.
Pompey’s players will be warming-up in special t-shirts ahead of the game, while members of Solent Mind will be on the community bus behind the Fratton End to provide more information on how they can help individuals.
They are looking to encourage those suffering from mental health issues to get involved with a football-oriented support group at their centre in Portsmouth.
Daniel, a team leader at the charity, said: “At Solent Mind’s Portsmouth Wellbeing Centre, we provide group-based mental health support to anyone in the city aged 18 and over who is in need of some support.
“We have skills-based courses such as anxiety and stress management, creative groups such as art therapy and sports activities such as badminton.
“A couple of years ago we noticed that we had a few service users, including both guys and girls, with an interest in football, so we began a small group in April 2016.
“Initially those that came did not know each other or anything about the group, and some even required support from support workers or relatives be there. Since then it has developed and grown into a routine for those who attend.”
"Men are often more reluctant to open up about their feelings, so anything which encourages them to talk about these issues has to be welcomed."
And Knight, who has had his own share of mental health issues to deal with in the past, said: “I’m fully behind this. Men are often more reluctant to open up about their feelings, so anything which encourages them to talk about these issues has to be welcomed.”
The initiative is also fully supported by Pompey in the Community (PitC) and the Pompey Supporters’ Trust (PST).
Clare Martin, CEO of PitC said: “We are delighted to be able help Solent Mind with this campaign to raise awareness of an issue which is at least being recognised and tackled.”
PST board member with responsibility for inclusion Sam Piggott added: “We are proud to be supporting Solent Mind, alongside Pompey in the Community, with the setting up of this new support group.
“While depression can affect any gender and age, men can often feel isolated and unable to tell people how they are feeling – with men three times as likely to end their life by suicide.
“Young men are at the highest risk of suicide – it is the most common cause of death for young men under the age of 35. This age group is one of the most dominant in football crowds across the country.
“We stick with Pompey through good times and bad – now we need to support each other as much as the team.”
Daniel explained more about what the group has achieved, saying: “We meet once a week on Wednesday afternoons in Charles Dickens Centre, Lake Road. We have a small kickabout and maybe a few games like crossbar challenge or penalty shoot-outs. Later, we get into a game which gets everyone moving and talking.
“Physical activity is really beneficial to our mental health and has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as increasing your mood.
“The great thing about football is as a team sport, we’re encouraging communication skills and problem solving. The group also get a sense of achievement and healthy competition, which is good for building confidence.
“It provides regular routine and a social aspect, something of which many of the people who come have not experienced for a long time, and the players have developed a strong bond between one another.”
Daniel revealed that research had found those who attended reported an increase in optimism, usefulness, closeness to others, confidence, an ability to deal with problems effectively, clear thinking, and reductions in depressive symptoms.
He said: “Aside from the statistics, we can see the group enjoying themselves and laughing during the sessions.
“Some of the guys arrive saying that they have been struggling through the week and feeling low, but they know attending the group helps them to feel better – they still come, even if their mood is telling them to stay in bed.
“Those who access the group have now begun to create their own team and enter into local five-a-side leagues. This is brilliant to see as some of the group struggled to leave their homes not that long ago, and now they are reconnecting with their local community and joining mainstream football leagues.
“This is exactly the sort of thing our groups are there for, to support people to reconnect with their local community and mainstream society.”
If you are inspired about the football and would like to know more, of if you would like to find out about the other groups runing in Portsmouth please call the Wellbeing Centre on (023) 9282 4795, pop to the community bus before the game, or visit www.solentmind.org.uk