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📝 Blog | One fan's open account of our unbreakable unity whilst we're all apart...

Royals fan Johnny Hunt gives us an insight into how sticking together can help our mental health while football is not here to unite us.

3 April 2020

A Royals fan. A health worker. And a man who is happy to talk about his mental health issues. Earlier this season, Johnny Hunt wrote an article for our website after finishing his overnight walk from Craven Cottage to the Madejski in a fundraising effort for mental health charity Mind.

Now, mental health matters are even more important as we all practise social distancing to save lives. Here are some of Johnny's thoughts on how we can all come together to combat the feeling of isolation...

"To me, and I am sure many others, being a Reading fan is a massive part of our lives and our identity.

"I love going to watch a match, it is a great escape from the pressures of life. When feeling isolated and alone, it connects me with other people and helps manage my mental health.

"Connecting with other fans on social media or in different forums can also help support this.

"We all feel that affinity to the club even if we always dont agree with each other! Its the passion of being a fan and caring about our club.

"At the minute and for the foreseeable future we have no live football at any level. A game that I and many others just take for granted as being part of our life has stopped.

"I have never had to think what i would do without it, have you?

"Replays from the past and the odd game of Subbuteo or FIFA can help a bit. But it's just not the same as being at a game or even following it live on the radio, tv or online.

"Going to games is all about catching up with friends old and new. It's about having a laugh and putting the world to rights, while arguing over who should be in the starting eleven.

"It's about saying hi to the players and getting a photo or autograph or two. The singing, the banter, the drama and all the ups and downs of a game that so mirrors life.

"And what about when we get a last minute winner...oh what a feeling! You're on cloud nine after the game...what a buzz. Then, there's that look of 'ah, it can only get better next time' when we lose.

"It's all about being connected by our love of Reading Football Club.

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"I am able to openly talk about my mental health issues, in the hope that it encourages others to get support or reach out for help.

"Others may not feel comfortable and thats understandable. But by being there and offering support, hopefully one day they will reach out for a hand of friendship.

"People's mental health is currently being severely affected by the coronavirus in so many ways.

"For those already affected by mental health issues like myself, it can really exacerbate things. Being unwell, losing someone close to you, losing a job - it all has a massive impact on anyone's mental health.

"Not even being able to do all the things we take for granted, like playing sport or spending time with a circle of friends only impacts this further.

"So many more people, are now feeling the knock on effects of being socially isolated. This will mean more people will have mental health issues.

"We do need to follow the guidelines in managing the virus.

"We need to try and remain strong for each other.

"We need to to get out and walk and breathe in some fresh air.

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"We also need to call on the unifying spirit, that makes our club unique and special. That spirit has seen us through some of the greatest moments in the club's history. It has also pulled us together, when things haven't gone so well on the pitch.

"In this day and age of social media, smartphones and even pen and paper, let's support each other.

"How? By reaching out, but without touching hands...sorry Neil Diamond!

"Reading Football Club were the first Championship club to offer 1,000 free tickets to NHS workers, when we return to some sort of normality. A gesture that goes a long way, in recognition of the amazing work people are doing in the frontline.

"The club website showing old games that bring back great memories. Programmes being sent out to the older generation. First team players doing Question and Answer sessions on social media. Podcasts and reaching out to the fans - they all really go a long way to make us all feel connected.

"Ex-Royals captain Paul McShane got in touch to see how i was doing last week and we talked about a lot of things. It helped me a great deal and meant a lot. Players are also struggling with a loss of their routine.

"We can never do enough to reach out to people, so let's all check in on a fellow fan and ask 'Are you OK?'

"Call, text, tweet or even drop a note through their door. I am always here to listen, I may not have all the answers but I really get what its like to struggle.

"This is a testing time, but we will get through it with the help of each other.

"When life does return to normal, i cant wait to catch up with you all at a game.

"Be safe, be kind and thanks for being part of our Royals family. Urzzzzz."


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