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Meet the student tackling mental health through football

Matthew Legg, International Management and Modern Languages, on turning his experience with depression into a vehicle to raise awareness of men’s mental health.

Matthew Legg and his cousin Ian McKenzie sit on a bench near football pitches wearing their FC Not Alone football kit while being interviewed for The FA with the interviewer visible in the right hand foreground.
Matthew Legg and his cousin Ian McKenzie want to use FC Not Alone to encourage men to talk about their mental health

After overcoming my own battle with depression, my cousin, Ian McKenzie, and I wanted to make a positive difference. We wanted to help tackle the issue of suicide being the biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK.

We created FC Not Alone, the world’s first mental health football club, with the aim of using the power of football to improve men’s mental health. We want to share the message that if you are going through depression or other mental health issues, you are not alone.

Mental illness and suicide is an issue that touches and damages so many people’s lives. Almost everybody knows somebody who has suffered with a mental health disorder.

The power of football

Football is an integral part of UK culture. It’s something men talk about a lot. That’s why we are confident football can be so important in getting men to open up about what truly matters – their health. Playing football creates a bond. We hope this will help men feel safe to discuss any struggles they are having with their teammates.

Collaborating with CALM

I first became aware of the charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) through their ground-breaking campaign Project 84. They put sculptures of 84 men on the roof of the ITV buildings. These represented the 84 men who take their lives every week in the UK.

I read more about the work that CALM does, from campaigning across the country to operating a crisis helpline (and much more). After contact with CEO Simon Gunning, we set up a meeting with their team. From that moment, we have worked with CALM. They have helped us in our fundraising efforts.

Tournament success and media coverage

FC Not Alone has held two football tournaments since we launched in 2018. After our first tournament, FC Not Alone gained some coverage in the press. I was interviewed on the BBC national news and Daily Bread made a documentary about our story.

The 2019 tournament was a success and much larger than 2018’s. We had 36 teams from all over the country, with many more people coming to watch and support the day. Incredibly, one team that entered included English football’s latest young star, Liverpool player Rhian Brewster and a few other professional footballers. This helped enhance our media coverage and one of the video clips from the tournament even went viral.

Most importantly, we raised £10,000 for CALM and other similar causes. Inspirational stories were shared as many people came together in solidarity for those who are struggling and those lost.

Getting involved with Heads Up

In February 2019, we were contacted by an advertising agency called Dark Horses. They were fans of our work and were working with The FA and Heads Together to launch a new mental health initiative. They thought this fitted perfectly with what we do at FC Not Alone.

Ian and I were part of the launch video for Heads Up, a campaign beginning in August 2019 for the entire 2019-20 football season. We also got to meet HRH Prince William at Wembley. We’re still involved in discussions about where the campaign is going.

I hope that campaigns like Heads Up can continue the progress already being made in how people are discussing and viewing mental health.

The future of FC Not Alone

We’re in the process of becoming a registered Community Interest Company (CIC). As a CIC, we have pledged to help provide solutions for men who are suffering with mental health issues. We want to have as much positive social impact as possible.

Our aim is to organise no-judgement football training sessions, matches and tournaments. We want to share as many experiences with mental health as possible, from players, fans and anyone involved in the world of football.

We’d also like to create a club that can compete in the football league system. Wherever our future takes us, we will continue to support CALM as we are big believers in their work; they literally save lives through their suicide prevention services.

Where to find help

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised, you can find out about the services the University can provide and the student-led support listening service, Bath Nightline.

The number of people who have got behind FC Not Alone and all that we stand for has been breathtaking. I am thankful to everyone who has taken part and remained part of our community.
Matthew Legg BSc International Management and Modern Languages (Spanish)

FC Not Alone on social media

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