After Andrew faced a set of life-changing events, his mental health suffered. With the help of friends, family and a very special group of fans, he opened up about how he was feeling and found the support he needed.
“While my wife was in labour, I had a knock on the door from another member of the hospital staff who said ‘your grandfather’s down in A&E. He’s in a really bad way, you might want to go and say your goodbyes to him.’
Andrew was faced with a difficult, and heart-breaking, situation. A series of events which acted as a catalyst which had a long-term impact on his mental health, “I was just drowning in thoughts; my brain was in overdrive at times. I started getting really disconnected with things.
“It got to the stage where I needed to get some help. I needed to speak to someone.”
Andrew sought help at the Matchday Mental Health Hub at the Beacon of Light. Run by SAFC supporter group, the Branch Liaison Council and Washington Mind, and supported by the Foundation of Light, the Hub provides fans of all ages free access to trained counsellors every match day, and is the first of its kind in the UK.
For Andrew, it was the life-line he needed; an informal and non-clinical environment which allowed him to open up and share how he was feeling. “People will talk openly about hurting their ankle playing football but they don’t necessarily tell you what’s hurting in their head.
“If one of your friends has opened up to you, you know you could say to them ‘we’re going to the match anyway, this facility is on the doorstep. Go and have a chat with the people there.’”
After receiving information about additional help from the Hub’s counsellors, Andrew went on to access to the support he needed and he is grateful to the Sunderland AFC community for helping him get through his difficult time; “With my family, you either support Sunderland or you don’t support anybody. But it’s not just about watching football; you become part of the bigger community.
“It shows that even though the power of football is there, you’ve got something that can really benefit the wider society.”
Andrew was speaking ahead of World Mental Health Day 2020, as part of the #BeAGameChanger campaign – a joint initiative between Newcastle United Foundation and Foundation of Light which encourages people across the region to talk openly about mental health.
The two clubs have put their long-standing rivalry aside to launch a powerful video which showcases the work being done by both club’s charities, and highlights that mental health supersedes team loyalty.
Watch the video below or subscribe to the Foundation of Light’s official YouTube Channel
To find out more and to get some tips on how to improve your physical and mental well-being visit www.foundationoflight.co.uk/beagamechanger/
11 October 2020