Newcastle and Sunderland unite for mental health campaign
By Blake Welton
Last Updated: 20/01/20 11:28am
Newcastle and Sunderland are putting footballing rivalries aside to help raise mental health awareness across the North East.
A new campaign, #BeAGameChanger, will showcase both clubs' foundations commitment to promoting positive mental health to both sets of supporters.
Figures published late last year revealed the region has the highest male suicide rate in the country, and of all recorded suicides in the region, 75 per cent of those taking their own lives are men.
Funded by the North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network, Newcastle and Sunderland supporters will be signposted to information using match day LED screens, cards and social media for the remainder of the season.
Wellness sessions will be delivered each week in the community by both foundations, including walking football which provides an opportunity for gentle exercise with a coach, as well as a pressure-free environment to socialise with like-minded participants.
Those joining the sessions will also be signposted to a range of programmes offered by the foundations, including free over-40s NHS health checks, specific mental health sessions with MAN v FAT, 12th Man and Washington Mind's Get Set to Go programmes.
Ashley Lowe, Health and Wellbeing Manager at Newcastle United Foundation, said: "It is incredibly powerful to see Newcastle and Sunderland fans standing side-by-side.
"Both cities are united by their love of football and we are using that passion for the two badges to start potentially life-saving conversations amongst supporters.
"It is crucial we take meaningful action to reduce stigma, encourage men to access support and to make mental and physical wellbeing our top priority."
Liz Barton-Jones, Head of Sport and Wellbeing at Sunderland's Foundation of Light added: "The #BeAGameChanger campaign will be potentially life-changing for fans across the region.
"We are proud to be working with the Newcastle United Foundation on this fantastic project, putting football rivalries aside to encourage people to show their support for their friends and family.
"Our message is clear - no matter whether you're a Mackem or a Geordie, look out for each other and don't be afraid to ask the question 'are you ok?'."