It’s been quite a few weeks being a Reading fan! And no, I’m not talking about managerial changes, but the extraordinary focus on mental health.
We’ve seen fans’ generosity at the Blackburn game, we’ve seen the heroics of Royals fan Johnny Hunt and his band of men as they walked through the night from Craven Cottage to arrive at the Fulham game, and on Saturday we appreciate the Reading FC Community Trust day focussing on mental health. Not to mention the support we saw from the club during last week’s World Mental Health Day.
So why are we doing all this? I’m a life-long Royals fan, but for the last 13 years, I’ve had the privilege of being the Chief Executive of the mental health charity, Mind.
Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. That could be one person in every family, hundreds of football players and many thousands of football fans.
We know that while football fans, particularly men, are comfortable showing their emotions at football matches, many feel unable to reach out for support when they need it. Because of that, we are proud to be working in partnership with clubs like Reading as part of our charity partnership with the EFL, to be real game-changers in the way football tackles mental health.
As a Reading fan myself, I’m also particularly pleased that my childhood club has been so supportive of Mind’s work. We hope that events like our charity match day with Reading will reach out to fans and let them know that whoever you support, Mind supports you.
Mind’s charity partnership with the EFL has seen the charity work with all 71 EFL clubs to help bring a lasting legacy around mental health in football. The partnership launched at the start of the 2018-19 season and runs for two years. Its main aims are to raise awareness about mental health within football, raise funds for Mind to deliver life-changing support and to help improve the approach to mental health in football working with other partners in the game.
Mind’s own research shows that over half of people (56 per cent) feel that football fans find it easier to show their emotions at football matches than at any other time. Despite this we also knows that many fans, particularly men, are likely to be struggling in silence for fear of opening up about their mental health. We hope that mental health-themed match days like Reading’s will begin to open up the conversation among football fans about their mental health as well as raising awareness about the support Mind offers.
So whatever the outcome of Saturday’s game, I want to thank my fellow Royals for the fantastic support you’ve already shown Mind and remind you that we are always here for you. For anyone in need of support the best places to start are our website mind.org.uk or Infoline 0300 123 3393.
You can help support our life-changing work by giving donations to our bucket-shakers at the game or by texting FOOTBALL to 70660 to donate £3. Full T&C’s mind.org.uk/legal-info/terms-and-conditions