To mark World Suicide Prevention Day Sunderland AFC and Foundation of Light, are backing a campaign for greater awareness and prevention of death by suicide.
Recent statistics show that one in five people have thought about suicide at some time in their life, with over 6,000 people dying by suicide in the UK each year. Sadly, approximately three-quarters of those deaths are amongst men and suicide is the leading cause of death in males age 20-49 years.
Whilst national rates remain high, some of the highest are in the North of England, with Sunderland and South Tyneside in particular having one of the highest rates across the North East region.
Putting footballing rivalries aside, the Foundation of Light is working with the North East Suicide Prevention Network and Newcastle United Foundation to tackle the problem through the #BeAGameChanger campaign which actively promotes open conversations and gives football fans the confidence to talk about mental health with their mates.
To show their support, Sunderland AFC will dedicate Saturday’s Sky Bet League One match against Accrington Stanley to the campaign, using the match day platform to encourage fans to check in with their friends and family and to have the confidence to ask if they are ok.
The Black Cats will wear branded #BeAGameChanger warm-up t-shirts and campaign messaging will be seen on screens around the Stadium of Light, including a new, poignant video starring Sunderland AFC players Carl Winchester, Louise Griffiths and Charlotte Potts.
Foundation staff will also be on hand to provide support and answer questions in the SAFC Fan Zone in the Beacon of Light from 12.30pm, alongside Sunderland Branch Liaison Council’s Match Day Mental Health Hub.
Over the last year, the Foundation has supported hundreds of people through free, bespoke mental health training for businesses and grassroots football clubs across Sunderland and South Tyneside.
Sunderland AFC fan Connor Renwick, who took part in a #BeAGameChanger workshop, is encouraging colleagues, friends and family to open up about how they are feeling, “I learnt that the best thing to do is talk. The more we talk about mental awareness the less stigma there will be for people to come forward and get the help they need when they need it.
“It doesn’t help anyone keeping things bottled up, and I was always told a problem shared is a problem halved. Also, if you speak aloud about how you feel to your friends, family, or to a mental health professional, then you’re on the right steps to getting yourself on the straight and narrow.
“And if someone you care about opens up to you about how they’re feeling mentally, don’t worry about saying the wrong thing, just listen to what they have to say and let them know you’re there from them.”
Foundation of Light Head of Sport and Wellbeing, Liz Barton-Jones said, “The devastating impact of suicide to the individual, their family and friends, colleagues and wider community is immeasurable and sadly something which has been felt across the Sunderland AFC supporters’ family in recent times.
“There is a common misconception that talking to someone about suicide will give them the idea to try it. But the opposite is true; by asking someone directly about suicide, you give them chance to tell you how they feel and evidence shows asking someone if they’re suicidal can protect them and can save a life.
“We believe that every suicide is preventable if we work together to enable timely and evidence-based interventions. Be a Game Changer is a campaign designed to support those who need it most but to also give football fans from across the region the confidence to ask “are you ok?”.
“We are really looking forward to the dedicated match day tomorrow to help spread the message that it’s good to talk and to help more people live happier and healthier lives.”
Watch the Sunderland AFC #BeAGameChanger video below
To find out more about #BeAGameChanger click here
To register your business or grassroots football club to take part in a free mental health workshop contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
9 September 2021