Football rivalry put aside as Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United launch #BeAGameChanger mental health campaign

Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United are working together to promote mental health with the launch of their #BeAGameChanger campaign.

Monday, 20th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 10:06 am
Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United have teamed up in a bid to improve the region's mental health.

Recently published figures show the North East has the highest male suicide rate in the country, with men comprising 75% of the region’s total.

The new partnership, between the Foundation of Light and the Newcastle United Foundation, sends the message: “Whether you’re in a Park or a Stadium, #BeAGameChanger and kick-off the conversation about mental health.”

Funded by the North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network, Sunderland and Newcastle supporters will be given information using match day LED screens, cards and social media for the rest of the 2019/20 season.

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Weekly wellness sessions will take place and will include walking football, which provides an opportunity for gentle exercise with a coach, as well as a pressure-free environment to socialise with like-minded people.

Other programmes include free over-40s NHS health checks, specific mental health sessions with the Washington Mind’s Get Set to Go, MAN v FAT and 12th Man programmes.

Liz Barton-Jones, head of sport and wellbeing at the Foundation of Light, said: “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?’”

Ashley Lowe, health and wellbeing manager at the 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.

“Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49 and one in four fans coming to St. James’ Park and the Stadium of Light will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.”

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