The stigma that some people may have felt previously in concealing poor mental health is thankfully eroding as a result of people, especially men, feeling able to come forward to admit how they are feeling, just as freely as they might do with a physical injury.
This process has been aided by a number of high-profile celebrities, including past and present footballers disclosing their mental frailties and the positive contribution that talking to people who are prepared to listen can really make. Indeed, in grassroots football, including here in Lancashire, there have been a number of excellent recent initiatives that allow people with poor mental health to come together to socialise, play some football and enjoy the positive health stimuli that this provides.
Mental health was always going to play a significant part in the work of Lancashire FA in 2020. Prior to shutdown members of staff had attended training and we were discussing how best to cascade information and guidance through our clubs and leagues. Certainly from a youth football perspective this was scheduled as a major priority in 2020-21 and we are still working on projects to increase awareness, deal with mental health issues, and to signpost to external partners. Our now, sadly cancelled, June safeguarding conference was due to have a mental health focus with workshops and guest speakers underlining this. We will certainly look to revisit this issue next year.
In the meantime however, we are conscious that right across the football family people are susceptible to poor mental health nowhere more than the current pandemic where we all confined to home, unable to visit friends and family and enjoy the normal routine that some rely on to keep their mental state on an even keel. We would urge those people to keep utilising those coping strategies that have worked for you in the past. That might mean using your exercise hour for a brisk walk or run. It might involve yoga, meditation or mindfulness sessions that are available online. It might mean reading a book. It will almost certainly involve talking to people and if you have no family around you, we would urge you to use social media and modern technology to keep in touch with the world outside.