Darius Charles lent his support to an event hosted by EFL and its charity partner Mind at Kings Cross Station on Wednesday morning, raising awareness of the issues faced by 1 in 4 people on World Mental Health Day.
Stars of various EFL clubs turned heads in London as part of a live exhibit highlighting the role football can play in tackling mental health problems.
Emphasising the statistic that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year, James Shea (Luton Town), Deji Oshilaja (AFC Wimbledon), Luke Prosser (Colchester Utd) and Darius Charles (Wycombe Wanderers) surprised football fans and commuters by taking centre stage at a special temporary installation on the Kings Cross station concourse, on behalf of the English Football League (EFL) and its charity partner, the mental health charity Mind.
The four players each spent half an hour minutes within the live exhibit posing as footballers with visible and invisible health problems, in full view of passengers within the station. To highlight the key 1 in 4 statistic, three of the footballers demonstrated clearly physical health problems, whilst the remaining player, who on the face of it appeared unhurt, represented the fact that you can also experience problems with your mental health and that, although these can’t always be seen, they should be treated with equal importance.
Charles said: "I consider myself fortunate that I haven't encountered what I would perceive to be mental health problems as such, but I know they are more prevalent amongst footballers than people might think, and it's important to emphasise the message that people shouldn't suffer alone and they should feel comfortable to talk to others about the troubles they're going through.
"I think it's a fantastic partnership between the EFL and Mind and already we have seen a number of footballers come forward and speak out about the issues they have faced. We know that footballers can be seen as role models within their clubs and local communities and if that encourages other people to seek help for their problems then that can only be a good thing.
"It was a privilege to be invited to be a part of the event and to meet representatives from the EFL and Mind, and I know everyone at Wycombe Wanderers is committed to supporting the charity throughout the season and beyond."
The exhibition, which will remain open throughout World Mental Health Day, highlights that every year dozens of EFL managers, hundreds of EFL footballers, and hundreds of thousands of EFL club supporters will be living with a mental health problem, many of them feeling unable to reach out for support.
Kings Cross station, the location of today’s exhibit, will see millions of football fans pass through its barriers this season, with train travel remaining the second most popular mode of travel for supporters.
Echoing the 1 in 4 people who experience mental health problems, EFL’s own research shows that 1 in 4 fans rely on train travel to attend away fixtures in the Sky Bet Championship, or Sky Bet League One and League Two.
The activity comes as part of a football season in which EFL and Mind have joined forces in a pioneering partnership that seeks to use the power of football to improve the nation’s mental health.
Throughout the current 2018/19 football campaign, the players of all 72 EFL clubs from the Sky Bet Championship through to League Two are wearing the Mind logo on the back of their matchday shirts, the first time that player names have incorporated a charity logo.
Today, thousands of people passing through Kings Cross station will be able to visit and learn more about Mind, and their charity partnership with EFL.
Debbie Jevans, Interim Chair of the EFL said: “Every day throughout the year the EFL, through its 72 Clubs and their support staff ensure players improve and maintain their physical health. The focus on mental health should be no different and every year 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem. With 1 in 4 EFL supporters using train travel to attend matches we chose Kings Cross Station to highlight the need to raise awareness of the challenges around mental health and the work the EFL and its charity partner, Mind will be doing to offer help and support those in need.”
Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, said: “We all have mental health just as we have physical health and both are equally important to look after. Whether you’re a star striker or season ticket-holder you shouldn’t have to live in fear about opening up and getting support for either your physical or mental health. We’re delighted to have joined with the EFL to create the On Your Side charity Partnership to make sure that no one has to tackle a mental health problem alone. Today, on World Mental Health Day, and all days, Mind and the EFL are On Your Side."