The Newcastle United Foundation’s Be a Game Changer, project encourages Geordies to talk openly about mental health.
The Newcastle United Foundation’s Be a Game Changer, project encourages Geordies to talk openly about mental health, whilst providing tips on how to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
Ashley Low and Oliver Bell are the manager and project co-ordinator of the The Newcastle United Foundation.
With the North East having the highest male suicide rate in the country, I chatted to the pair to learn about their mental health work.
Firstly, can you tell me about the NUFC foundation?
Oliver: The Newcastle United Foundation is the charitable arm of the football club. We work with about 60,000 people a year, running programmes to try and engage a vast variety of people from all walks of life and backgrounds through the pride and passion of Football.
Can you tell me about the Be A Game Changer campaign and why you decided to start it?
Ashley: We launched the campaign in February 2019 after a years worth of research, and after receiving some funding from the Premier League and Newcastle City Council. We had a brief to improve mental health within the city.
With the majority of our fan base being men, we wanted to direct the campaign towards encouraging our fans to talk openly about mental health. There is still a lot of stigma out there.
How has the campaign been received by NUFC fans so far?
Ashley: Really well! We have a facebook group which has been a really great resource and support.
We’ve had people coming up to the staff on match days saying how the campaign has helped them.
Can you talk me through a Men’s Health Workshop like the one you hosted recently?
Oliver: The other night was very much a pilot, but the foundation is to provide a comfortable space for men who all have a lot of things in common, they love football, they love Newcastle and they can discuss certain issues surrounding mental health.
How is the work you are doing affecting your own mental health?
Ashley: There’s definitely been times where I felt I needed to keep a check on my mental health due to stress levels to being busy at work, but I think that’s the case with a lot of jobs.
It’s about how to recognise it and manage it.
Do you think the conversation around mental health has changed since you were younger?
Ashley: Yes, definitely. I don’t remember talking about mental health or emotions in school but now everything has changed very quickly which is great.
Tell me something that brings you happiness?
Oliver: Exercise! I love cycling and ride my bike 20 miles to and from work every day.
I also find happiness in helping people and having discussions to gain a new perspective on life.
Give me a film or documentary recommendation and why you liked it?
Oliver: The Bill Gates documentary “Inside Bill’s Brain”.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Ashley: That things do get better!
What do you see for the future of the NUFC foundation?
Oliver: Hopefully we’re going to be able to grow. We want to reach and engage with more people in the community.