Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. On average, 125 people in the UK take their own lives. Every. Single. Week.
With approximately three quarters of this saddening statistic being male, more needs to be done to encourage men to engage in open discussion about their mental health. Certainly, from my experience of having lived in the UK my entire life, it is something that we simply do not do enough of over here.
One football club is actively trying to change this. Established to provide struggling individuals with a form of escapism, FC Not Alone was formed when cousins Matthew Legg and Ian McKenzie decided to throw their own Mental Health World Cup, with the 2018 tournament just around the corner, in support of the mental health charity, CALM. The 36-team, one-day tournament proved a huge success and was won by a team led by Rhian Brewster, the up-and-coming striker, currently at Sheffield United.
Now, based in north-west London, FC Not Alone has a squad composed of old and new friends alike, in addition to some scouted local talent, that compete in a local amateur 11-a-side league. The club may seem like it should have quite a limited impact, but the cousins have been on a mind-blowing journey so far, meeting the likes of Prince William and Gareth Southgate. If they have achieved this much already, who is to say that they won’t have a big part to say in getting more men talking about their mental health through football?
After all, co-founder McKenzie has noted that “football is the biggest conversational topic among men in the UK”, with men “the most emotional being they probably ever are” during match days. If this is accepted, then it seems only logical that football should have a big role to play in opening up the discussion around men’s mental health.
Fellow co-founder Legg has suffered with depression in the past, which resulted in him deferring his second year of university, so knows the value that football can have in helping to combat these issues. Legg’s own personal struggle was the reason why he and McKenzie decided to form FC Not Alone.
Mental health is a growing topic of discussion in the football world, with Danny Rose one notable star who has openly commented on his own battle with depression.
However, it is still the exception as opposed to the rule. Hopefully, through projects, such as FC Not Alone, football can become a forum for the discussion of mental health in the years to come.
If you’re wondering how you can support the cause, the club is running a limited sale of 280 shirts for the upcoming season, with 50% of the proceeds from the genuinely delicious little number being donated to the mental health awareness and suicide prevention charity, CALMZONE.