“Will my mental health conditions stop me from playing football?” was the question on one patient’s lips as Chesterfield Football Club players and staff visited the Hartington Unit at Chesterfield Royal Hospital on Thursday to play their part in Time to Talk Day – a national movement to get the country talking about mental health for 24-hours.
Player/coach and chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Ritchie Humphreys was joined by teenage striker Ricky German and winger Derek Daly for a guided tour around the gym and recreational activities hub of the unit, run by Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The visit was organised by the Chesterfield FC Community Trust, who have done a lot of work to develop opportunities for people experiencing poor mental health.
In the spirit of Time to Talk Day, the players spent time chatting with patients and staff about life as a professional footballer on and off the pitch and the importance of speaking openly about our emotional wellbeing. Humphreys, German and Daly were also on hand to sign autographs and pose for photographs.
Over a game of pool and table tennis with the players, one patient concerned about how his mental health might affect his future asked: “From a young age I’ve always loved football and have dreamt of playing for a professional club one day. Will my mental health conditions stop me from playing football?” To his delight, the players reassured him that the impacts of poor mental health are well-recognised in English football today, so much so that there is a wealth of emotional 'round-the-clock' support and counselling available to past and present players through the PFA.
The annual anti-stigma campaign’s goal is to raise awareness that anyone can be affected by poor mental health and that by being open to mental health can break down any stigma surrounding it. 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year and footballers are now immune to this.
Recreation co-ordinator for Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, and organiser of the visit, Clare Farnsworth said: “It’s been absolutely fantastic to have the players here. Patients have said to me they can’t believe they’ve just had a game of pool with a footballer. There were smiles all around.”
Commenting on the visit, Ritchie Humphreys who also acts as ambassador for mental health at Chesterfield Football Club said: “For us to raise the awareness around our local community is important to us. It was great for us to see the tremendous facilities on offer, as well as meet some of the patients and interact with them.”
Time to Talk Day has previously attracted backing from many top footballers and household names such as Clarke Carlisle, Kelly Smith, Freddie Flintoff and Stephen Fry – and most recently by Prince Harry who reportedly regrets not opening up sooner about the death of his mother Princess Diana.