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⚽ Evening and weekend football is BACK! 📅 Kicking off November 2nd, places must be booked for the full six-weeks.… https://t.co/TYCoEQJBPf

🎉 Many happy returns to #SAFC's 1973 FA Cup winner Richie Pitt. A long-term supporter of Foundation activities, en… https://t.co/EQn0lJkQ1L

⏳ Former #SAFC skipper @442Dean shares some flicks and tricks during a visit to Crowtree Leisure Centre with… https://t.co/N9R72StZBb

🎖️ Something for all ages this October half-term, for families of Sunderland veterans. The FREE activities will b… https://t.co/jmwnlmeoT6

😁 The face you make when you're booked onto a football course during half-term... 👋 See you there 👉… https://t.co/I6szs3ijW4

🥳 An exciting afternoon for our @SScolars, who, for the first time this year played indoors. The first and second… https://t.co/lTeE2XabDD

🚀🚀🚀 🎂 A very happy birthday to former #SAFC man Kieran Richardson Any excuse... Kieran Richardson! https://t.co/vDBFKn5Enb

💭 #WednesdayWisdom *𝘧𝘦𝘢𝘵. 𝘒𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘈𝘥𝘪𝘦 https://t.co/MIROxDrA0m

And the winner of a signed SAFC home shirt is B-6656448 𝙃𝘼'𝙒𝘼𝙔 𝘼𝙉𝘿 𝙋𝙇𝘼𝙔 is our new match day lottery. Play online… https://t.co/P7NyELO4mW

🦅 Just over an hour to go to take advantage of our 𝙃𝘼'𝙒𝘼𝙔 𝘼𝙉𝘿 𝙋𝙇𝘼𝙔 lottery early bird offer! Buy your tickets be… https://t.co/P1S7mmgBOL

🏐 Our futsal provision has expanded with opportunities for boys and girls from the age of 9. Players will complet… https://t.co/tJiUshhoV8

🤞𝙃𝘼'𝙒𝘼𝙔 𝘼𝙉𝘿 𝙋𝙇𝘼𝙔... it's matchday! We might be missing the SoL, but we don't have to miss out on the matchday lott… https://t.co/yDiSeXamTe

💸 Our 𝙃𝘼'𝙒𝘼𝙔 𝘼𝙉𝘿 𝙋𝙇𝘼𝙔 matchday lottery kicks off this weekend v Portsmouth! Get in early and buy your tickets ton… https://t.co/hYZW9YY3nq

📚A busy afternoon in store for our partners at SHAID Veterans Project after we delivered some of our new activity p… https://t.co/dFUbSJBCRb

RT @RedAndWhite2017: Worth noting that proceeds from Ha'way and Play (the revamp of the half-time "Grand in your Hand" lottery) go to the…

RT @SunderlandRTC: We, alongside @SAFCFoL are fully committed to providing equal opportunities as well as supporting females of all ages an…

💸🛍 Remember, when shopping online with Amazon, you can raise money for the Foundation at no extra cost to you... 🔸… https://t.co/aynVQj4lgz

How it started How it’s going https://t.co/xVYSrpUpqs

💥 An action-packed half-term at the @BeaconofLight... ⚽ Football 💃 Disability multi-sports 🏐 Futsal Limited plac… https://t.co/9JgKTGpQFN

🦅 Take advantage of our 𝙃𝘼'𝙒𝘼𝙔 𝘼𝙉𝘿 𝙋𝙇𝘼𝙔 lottery early bird offer! Buy before midnight Tuesday for the chance to… https://t.co/mnpjwpoiod


Sunderland and Newcastle’s intense rivalry is being set aside today, as they send an important message to fellow football fans on World Mental Health Day – mental health has no team and no colours.

Brought together by Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light and Newcastle United Foundation, Mackems and Geordies alike are being encouraged to start potentially life-saving conversations with family and friends, or to take their own steps to share their mental wellbeing with others.

This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘mental health for all’, so the Foundation of Light and Newcastle United Foundation have released a powerful and compelling video featuring the stories of two fans who have received support through the club’s official charities, and as part of the Be A Game Changer campaign.

Andrew a life-long Sunderland fan, speaks about how a difficult, and heart-breaking, situation was the catalyst for him to seek help and open-up about how he was feeling. The life-changing support he needed came when he visited the Match Day Mental Health Hub at the Beacon of Light – a free service created by Sunderland AFC supporter group, Branch Liaison Council, and supported by the Foundation of Light – which provides fans access to free trained counsellors from Washington Mind.

Andrew a diehard Newcastle fan, tells of how he struggled with poor mental health for a number of years as a result of anxiety relating to his weight. Last year he tried to take his own life but found support through Newcastle United Foundation.

Liz Barton-Jones, Foundation of Light’s Head of Health and Wellbeing, said: “We know that there are so many people out there struggling in silence; particularly men who are often led to believe sharing their feelings is ‘not what men do’.

We hope the powerful video and the fans stories gets people talking – in Sunderland and Newcastle – as we know all it takes to potentially save a life, is to start that first conversation. If we can encourage just one fan to open up it’s been a success

“Our Be A Game Changer campaign is there to let people know they will be listened to and supported, and it’s okay to not be okay.”

Funded by the North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network, the Be A Game Changer mental health awareness campaign aims to reduce the region’s suicide rates among men aged 20 to 49. In January this year, both charities joined forces to make a combined commitment to promote positive mental health to thousands of supporters visiting St. James’ Park and the Stadium of Light through the campaign.

Ashley Lowe, Health and Wellbeing Manager at Newcastle United Foundation, said: “On World Mental Health Day, we are sharing an important and powerful message from Newcastle and Sunderland supporters themselves, who have come together to tell others that mental health is something you can talk about and you will be listened to.

“One in four of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our lives. These issues are indiscriminate and mental health has no club and no colours – our experiences with mental health make us human and we need to talk about it more openly to encourage potentially life-saving conversations.

“For men in particular, who love their club and their city – the Be A Game Changer campaign is here to support them and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.”

The important and powerful message comes at a critical time for the region. The COVID-19 crisis has not only left stands at both stadiums empty, with supporters unable to share matchdays with loved ones or fellow fans, it has also resulted in an increase in mental health related issues as thousands struggle with social isolation, the worries of job security and the financial impact of the pandemic.

Throughout lockdown, both Foundations have adapted their health and wellbeing programmes to ensure participants of all ages remained engaged – in Sunderland, elderly members of the community were supported through regular contact though phone calls and WhatsApp messages as part of the Extra Time Hub, with SAFC Director David Jones personally calling 45 fans. Sit and Be Fit exercise videos were shared online for those unable to get out, and the dedicated free fitness programme for fans, Fit Black Cats, temporarily moved to Facebook to continue supporting members, with each losing an average of 5kg during lockdown.

In Newcastle, this included more than 1,000 phone calls made to elderly and vulnerable people, around 200 people given mental health guidance to lower anxiety and feeling of loneliness, and NHS staff invited to access Be A Game Changer mental wellness guidance online.

Be A Game Changer Facebook communities for both clubs have also played their part during lockdown as they have become an increasingly important hub to thousands of people, offering comfort, advice and practical information for those experiencing mental health issues or for friends and relatives supporting someone else.

With some lockdown restrictions lifted, both charities are back to operating a number of weekly health and wellbeing programmes, including Walking Football, free over-40s NHS health checks, specific mental health sessions with MAN v Fat, Fit Black Cats, 12th Man and Washington Mind’s Get Set to Go programmes.

The Be A Game Changer campaign was originally launched in February 2019 to encouraged Newcastle United supporters to talk about they are really feeling and to recognise when they or their loved ones are in crisis.

For support in Sunderland, visit foundationoflight.co.uk/beagamechanger.  

For more information about Be a Game Changer in Newcastle, visit nufoundation.org.uk/beagamechanger.

Alternatively, join the SAFC Facebook community or join NUFC Facebook community 

10 October 2020

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