Around 5,500 football fans showed their support to Time to Change Buckinghamshire at a League 1 football match between Wycombe Wanderers and Charlton Athletic on Tuesday 9 April at Adams Park.
The final score saw the Blues defeated by one goal to nil, but the game was still a winner for mental health, with supporters of both sides demonstrating their commitment to breaking down the stigma attached to mental health problems.
The football club and its Sports Education Trust (SET) joined forces with Time to Change Buckinghamshire to encourage fans to talk about mental health, to know how to spot the signs in a relative, friend or colleague and how to start a conversation with someone.
Wycombe Wanderers players got involved and, through videos, shared their experiences of mental health problems, reaching out to fans and showing them that even their football heroes can find it hard sometimes.
The club dedicated the cover of its matchday programme to the Time to Change movement, inviting local people to submit designs which carried a message of wellbeing and positive mental health, with the winner – seven-year-old Theo Richardson – having his entry published on the cover of every edition.
At half-time, the club invited supporters to turn on the flashlight on their mobile phones to create a visual display of pledges to changing the way they think, talk and act around the topic of mental health, and to ensure they’re in their mate’s corner in times of need.
And the Sports & Education Trust also signed their Time to Change Employer Pledge just before kick-off.
The Time to Change Employer Pledge is a way for organisations and businesses to demonstrate their commitment to changing how mental health problems in the workplace are treated and making sure that employees who are facing these problems feel supported at work. To support their Employer Pledge signing, Wycombe Wanderers Sport and Education Trust has developed an action plan detailing what they will be doing to support their staff to be able to talk about mental health problems without discrimination and to know where they can go if they need help to overcome any issues they may be experiencing.
Noel Brown, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health, Buckinghamshire County Council attended the match. He said: “We know that there continues to be stigma attached to mental health problems which can make it very hard for someone affected to open up about their problems to others.
“We are grateful to Wycombe Wanderers Football Club for agreeing to join forces and dedicate their match to this important cause. It was a fantastic opportunity to show fans that a simple conversation can break down the barrier and could even be life-changing for the person affected by mental health problems.
“I’m hoping that people will be inspired to start more conversations with family, friends and colleagues. Together we can wipe out stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health problems.”
Trevor Stroud, chairman of Wycombe Wanderers, said: “It was a proud night for the club to be able to partner with Time to Change Buckinghamshire and help deliver the important messages around mental health, and stamping out the stigma and discrimination that can often go with it.
“The Time to Change team did a fantastic job of engaging with our fans to remind them that help is at hand for those that need someone to talk to, and also that we all have a duty to look out for the people close to us to make sure they’re okay. Once again, I thank everyone who was involved with this initiative and look forward to partnering with Time to Change again at another matchday in the not-too-distant future.”
Time to Change Buckinghamshire is a growing social movement working alongside the established national campaign aiming to change attitudes towards mental health through working with local communities, workplaces and schools. Find out more about it and how you can get involved at www.timetochangebucks.org.