Club shows support for Our Blue Light campaign
South Shields Football Club has joined the bid to end the stigma surrounding mental health.
Representatives of Northumbria Police visited Mariners Park on Thursday after the club signalled its support for the Our Blue Light campaign.
The initiative, in conjunction with mental health charity Mind, aims to bring the emergency services together to raise awareness of mental health and rid the stigma surrounding it.
It particularly centres around improving the mental health, well-being and working life of those who work for the emergency services, and get the public talking about mental health.
The Our Blue Light torch was at Mariners Park on the latest leg of a relay taking it around the North East this week.
Shields striker Carl Finnigan was one of those to greet it, and he spoke about the importance of eradicating the stigma around mental health – particularly within football.
He said: “It is difficult for players to feel comfortable speaking out about mental health.
“In football, there’s a feeling that you need to appear strong and in control, and talking about things like this is sometimes not seen that way.
“Most players are scared to show anything that might be perceived as a weakness.”
Carl added: “Football is an environment where you can get stick from supporters, and you don’t want to bring any more on yourself.
“Projects like this are so good because they give people more avenues to talk about mental health and show them that it’s not a weakness to speak out.
“I think supporters need to be educated on this as well, and to understand that the person they might be targeting from the touchline is not a machine – they’re a human being.”
Detective Sergeant Ash Hopper, who works in the safeguarding department at Northumbria Police, said: “The blue light torch is being taken around the force area by the emergency services this week, who are speaking to the community.
“There’s a stigma attached to talking about mental health in the police, in a similar way to football.
“We’re trying to break down that barrier and stop that stigma.
“We want to show people that there’s support out there and people you can talk to.”
Anne-Marie Ianzito, who along with Doug Hill is a co-ordinator for the project with Mind, said: “It’s really important to bring this to the attention of all workplaces, and to get people to recognise that it is good to talk.
“The aim of the project is to get the topic of mental health on the table.
“In the next phase of the Blue Light project, we will be training call handlers and new recruits in fire and police around mental health awareness and around taking care of their mental well-being.”
PICTURE CAPTION: From left to right, Police cadets Jennie Mitchell and Nick White, South Shields FC joint manager Graham Fenton, South Shields FC striker Carl Finnigan and Detective Sergeant Ash Hopper, with PC Karl Peterson at the front.