The Changing Room, which is led by SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and uses football to bring men together to tackle mental health, today (Thursday 12 May) received a visit from the Duke of Cambridge.
The Duke’s visit takes place during Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday 9 – Sunday 15 May). The theme of the week is loneliness, with improving men’s social connections central to the ethos of The Changing Room. The programme gives men the opportunity to come together, not just for a blether about the football, but also for the chance to get the stuff that’s bothering them off their chests.
Now delivered in football clubs across Scotland, Big Hearts Community Trust, the charity associated with Heart of Midlothian Football Club, was one of two pilot organisations to participate in The Changing Room.
At the visit, the Duke met with participants from The Changing Room and had the chance to participate in a ‘walk and talk’ around Tynecastle Stadium, which is a core part of the 12-week programme.
The Duke is passionate about using the power of football as a vehicle to promote good mental health and has campaigned for a more mentally healthy culture at all levels of the game.
Billy Watson, chief executive of SAMH said:
“We were delighted to welcome the Duke of Cambridge to The Changing Room today; it is a programme that we are immensely proud of, and that we know has made a difference to so many men’s lives.
“The Changing Room shows us that while men sometimes struggle to talk about how they feel; when the environment is right, and when men feel supported, they are not just good at talking, they are actually great at it.
“It has been fantastic to see Scottish football really embrace the importance of mental health and wellbeing. The Changing Room would not be possible without the brilliant collaborative approach of our partners: Movember Foundation, the Scottish Government, SPFL Trust, and football club charities and trusts across Scotland.”
Kristian joined The Changing Room after a period of mental ill health because he wanted to meet new people and feel more connected to his community. He said, “The Changing Room was a welcoming and safe environment to talk about my mental health recovery, and to learn new skills and techniques to help me manage my wellbeing.
“It gave me hope for the future, and by increasing my confidence and self-esteem, I was able to develop new friendships. It made me feel less lonely and it was such a relief to be open and honest about my mental health.
“The Changing Room was non-judgmental, and helped me to move on to better and bigger things in life.”
Craig Wilson, Big Hearts’ general manager said:
“It was a great honour to welcome the Duke of Cambridge to Big Hearts and talk about our charity’s work harnessing the power of football to help people take care of their mental health and wellbeing. We were delighted to shine a light on The Changing Room initiative hosted at Tynecastle Park every week and enable His Royal Highness to take part in conversations with a group of football supporters attending the project.”
Funded by the Movember Foundation, The Changing Room has been running at Heart of Midlothian Football Club and Hibernian Football Club since 2018, and now takes place at football clubs across Scotland.
SAMH has also recently received additional funding from the Scottish Government to deliver Changing Room Extra Time, which builds on the existing programme by allowing participants the opportunity to speak in more depth about their mental wellbeing and explore areas which are giving them particular challenges or concerns.