Men encouraged to talk about mental health by this League One football club

How Sheffield Wednesday's community programme hopes to encourage men to talk about their mental health

Sheffield Wednesday badge at Hillsborough
Outside of Hillsborough, where the Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme is based. Photo by Nathan Smith

The charitable arm of a League One football club established to get more people active through football has now launched a new scheme to encourage men to speak out about their mental health struggles.

Organisers of the Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme have set up the ‘Talk Club’ alongside rivals Sheffield United.

Players from both clubs will be recording messages expressing the importance of mental fitness and the new Sheffield Wednesday branch of Talk Club will open its doors at Hillsborough Stadium.

This follows the opening of the charity’s first North of England branch at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium in September last year.

Co-founder of Talk Club, Neil Harrison, said: “It is testament to both clubs in standing together and recognising that, regardless of the badge on your shirt, a community of men can support each other by simply talking and listening about their mental fitness.

“In Sheffield and across the UK, we’re seeing how the key to a real conversation about mental health begins with: ‘How are you? Out of 10?’ We invite and welcome every man to join the community.”

The launch of the scheme comes just a few months after the Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme was recognised in the House of Commons, when Labour’s Sheffield MP Gill Furniss praised its efforts to help the local community.

At the time, she said: “Last week, I met with the community development workers at Sheffield Wednesday FC.

“While they are pushing to level up back into the Championship on the pitch, their commitment to levelling up communities in my constituency of Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough off the pitch is just as firm.”

Furniss then asked Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg to thank the programme for its work and asked how the Government would support such local initiatives.

Rees-Mogg answered by saying: “I would love to congratulate Sheffield Wednesday on its community efforts which is a reminder of how important local football teams are in their communities, and there are various initiatives – and obviously the National Lottery is a very important part of this, but congratulations to Sheffield Wednesday.”

Speaking about the efforts of the programme more widely, community programme media officer Oliver Barefoot said: “We are a part of the club, but we are all about the community.

“(We want to help) local communities in anyway that we can, through different programmes, so we run some courses for the younger adults, but we run programmes for the older adults in areas such as health and fitness, wellbeing and lots of other things.”

The impact of the exposure given to initiatives such as Sheffield Wednesday’s is important – and one that Barefoot was pleased to see.

He said: “It really shines a spotlight on the amazing work that we are doing here as a community programme and for the people of Sheffield.

“It’s really been a catalyst for the public to see what we are doing.

“We were recently on BBC Look North, the local channel here in Sheffield to shine a light on the peer research that we are doing on sexual assault and sexual abuse, so that is one of the many things that has been given more praise recently, as a result of such a public show of support in the House of Commons.”

The Talk Club isn’t the only thing that Wednesday have been working on, with multiple workshops for all ages taking place all across the year.

Barefoot said: “We’ve got a lot of things coming up in the next few months, we have recently launched a health and wellbeing initiative, working with a local charity nearby, to help the local public.

“After lockdown, the obesity rates have slightly gone up, so this is to help people who want to get into better shape, they can come here to Hillsborough Stadium, and use the side of the pitch to help themselves lose weight.”

For more information about the Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme, click here.