EFL stars unite to tackle silence around mental health in football
Stars of EFL Clubs turned heads at King's Cross yersterday on World Mental Health Day, as part of a live exhibit highlighting the role football can play in tackling mental health problems.
Highlighting 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 King's Cross station concourse, on behalf of the English Football League (EFL and its charity partner, the mental health charit, 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 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.
The exhibition, which remained open throughout World Mental Health Day, highlighted the fact 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 the 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 statistic that 1 in 4 people 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 seventy-two 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.
Debbie Jevans, Interim Chair of the EFL, said: "Every day throughout the year the EFL, through its seventy-two 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, added: "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".
Supporters can find out more by visiting EFL.com.