Men to express their feelings through football

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A Scottish charity is working with professional football bodies to get middle aged men to open up about their mental health

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11th September 2017 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Football, the international language of men, is to be used to get Scots fans talking about their mental health.

The Changing Room project will play a crucial role in turning around terrifying rates of mental ill health amongst Scottish men, who are two and half times more likely than women to kill themselves each year.

The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) is working with The Scottish Professional Football League Trust (SPFL Trust) and Hibernian Football Club on the two-year pilot project aimed at getting men to open up about their feelings.

Men in their 40s and early 50s are most at risk of suicide, so the plan is to create both offline and online places where they can talk about their mental health.

During the development stage of the project, SAMH distributed a survey to football fans all across Scotland which asked questions about their involvement with football and the conversations they have.

Over 3,400 responded and a recurring message from the survey and focus group findings suggested that a range of activities (physical, educational and online) would help support and sustain engagement, educate men about mental health as well as enhancing their capacity to better self-manage it, and importantly help each other.  

Billy Watson, chief executive of SAMH, said: “Through our research we learned that large numbers of men in their middle years internalise societal perceptions of masculinity and identity resulting in their inability or unwillingness to talk about their feelings, their mental health and how to ask for help.

“Working alongside Scottish football clubs, such as Hibernian, and using the power of football we will bring men together in spaces that they associate with trust and feel they belong. 

“Talking is one of the first steps to better mental health and we hope by starting these conversations that The Changing Room will create a generation of resilient men.”

Nicky Reid, general manager for SPFL Trust, said: "Scotland’s professional football clubs are at the heart of their local communities and creative approaches like The Changing Room have the ability to make a real impact in the lives of those who take part.

“Football already brings people together from across the country; using the draw of the professional game and the backdrop of a professional stadium environment to improve mental health and wellbeing is a wonderful thing.”

The project is being funded by the Movember Foundation, which raises funds to help men to live happier, healthier and longer lives.  

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