#BeAGameChanger encourages football supporters to talk about how they are really feeling and recognise when they or their loved ones are in crisis.
Originally launched in February 2019 by Newcastle United Foundation, the campaign has now been backed by Sunderland AFC’s official charity, Foundation of Light.
For one Sunderland supporter, the campaign would change his life.
In 2016, Gary Mutimer was told he had just ten days to live. Diagnosed with cancer and a heart condition that developed into an aortic aneurysm, Gary could only focus on his physical health.
The military veteran-turned media entrepreneur was often bedbound in hospital and it was two gruelling years before Gary was finally given the all-clear.
But despite gaining his freedom, Gary, now 42, felt mentally trapped.
“During my recovery, I disregarded my mental health, which was a big mistake,” he said.
“By ignoring my mental health after my two-year fight, I descended into a severe depression which led to suicide attempts and constant suicidal thoughts – not to mention I disappeared for four days. For me, life had no meaning.”
Gary, a lifelong Sunderland supporter, knew he needed help. It was through Newcastle United Foundation’s Be A Game Changer mental health awareness campaign that he joined an entire community of men just like him.
Through a variety of health and wellbeing programmes, Be A Game Changer events and social media, Gary began to open up about his feelings and encouraged others to do the same.
He said: “I think Be A Game Changer is a huge benefit for individuals who can hear that they’re not alone, not just in Newcastle, but across the North East.
“Hopefully, it will encourage people to talk and be much more open about how they are feeling and fingers crossed it will save lives.”
“Football unites people,” he added. “Turn to the person next to you in the ground, wherever that may be, and just ask, ‘are you okay today?’ Just talk.”
Launching on Blue Monday – the third Monday of January dubbed ‘the most depressing day of the year’ – Newcastle United Foundation and Sunderland Foundation of Light are coming together to spread mental health awareness across the North East.
Gary added: “I openly talk about what happened to me and try to help to raise awareness of mental health matters. Believe me, you are not alone and talking helps.
“Even by just recognising you have an issue with your mental health, you are already on the road to smashing it.
“When you are trapped in the dark tunnel without a light, you are not alone. In fact, you are surrounded by people who are human just like you and who are willing to help you.
“You are not alone, I am not alone and we are all in this together. Share your thoughts and easy your load. You have got this!”
To find out more about #BeAGameChanger, visit foundationoflight.co.uk/beagamechanger or nufoundation.org.uk/beagamechanger
Alternatively, follow @SAFCFoL or @NU_Foundation on Twitter
20 January 2020