FOOTBALL fans will be at the forefront of efforts in Moray to promote better mental health.
Elgin City players, management, officials and supporters are being encouraged to learn more about Breathing Space, a free confidential helpline which supports people feeling low or anxious.
City are at home to Albion Rovers on Saturday February 1, which is also Breathing Space Day, and the national charity will be on hand to offer advice to fans at Borough Briggs.
Other workplaces in Moray are being encouraged to help boost awareness of the helpline which specifically targets men who are experiencing difficulties in their life.
The service, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, receives over 6,000 calls a month and trained advisors can listen, offer advice and signpost callers to the other services in the local area.
In Moray in 2012 there were 21 suicides and many others attempted to take their own lives. Men aged 16 to 40 are particularly at risk.
Tony McLaren, Breathing Space national co-ordinator, said there had been a number of suicides in football in recent years and he welcomed Elgin City’s support for the service.
“Generally speaking, men don’t talk about their emotions and feelings so that’s why we want to target lots of places where men congregate. Football is a great gateway to get information out.
“Football and rugby are key areas for us and getting the message across that it is important to talk about their feelings.
“Elgin City have young guys on the pitch who are as fit as fiddles but we need them and the fans to see how they can look after their mental health as well,” he added.
Physical exercise is one of the best ways to alleviate the impact of stress and other mental health conditions.
“Taking some time out to do something positive for your mental wellbeing, like going for a walk, having a coffee with friends or reading a book,” said Mr McLaren, “is really important for your overall health and wellbeing.”
Steven McCluskey, Moray’s Choose Life co-ordinator: “We have to get to the places where men congregate, whether it is football grounds or betting shops.
“There is clear evidence that people who are more physically active have better mental health. Even small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.”
Mr McCluskey said: “January is not a great time of year for a lot of people. It is late at night and at weekends when many people feel their problems getting on top of them and don’t know where to turn.”
Robbie Hope, community manager for Elgin City, said promoting positive mental health was part of the ethos of the club.
“When we are coaching the youngsters, as well as training and developing their football abilities, it is about social interaction and mental toughness; preparing them not just for sport but for life.
“We try to create a football family.”
Other employers in Moray taking part in the Breathing Space Day include NHS Grampian, Moray Council, RAF Lossiemouth, Kinloss Barracks, Walkers Shortbread, Springfield Properties Robertsons and Diageo.
The Breathing Space helpline is open 6pm–2am Monday to Thursday and 24 hours over the weekend. The freephone number is 0800 83 85 87.
People can also call the Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and the Moray Samaritans number is 01343 543 000.
Organisations who would like to discuss ways to promote better mental health can phone Steven McCluskey on 01343 567 188 or email firstname.lastname@example.org