Wales stars challenge mental health stigma in thought-provoking video

Meet the ambassadors of our #WeWearTheSameShirt campaign

Two Wales internationals have thrown their support behind our campaign to end mental health stigma in football.

Nathan Blake and Tash Harding have joined national team psychologist Dr Ian Mitchell in discussing the issues that the pressures of professional football can cause on mental well being at the elite end of the game.

Talking in a video commissioned by charity Time to Change Wales, Blake who won 29 Wales caps, said: "In my era, there was a lot of stigma around mental health and sadly some of it is still there.

"But the days of being told to 'just get on with it' or 'pull ourselves together' are thankfully gone and there is a growing respect in the game for mental issues.

"Whether you suffer with a mental health problem or not and whatever you do for a living, you can still love life, and that's what the We Wear the Same Shirt campaign aims to promote."

The former Cardiff City, Bolton and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker works with mental health sufferers in his role on the board of Newport County in the Community.

He said: "We see lots of people, from all walks of life who suffer with mental health issues.

"The one thing that bonds them all is their love for football so it's our duty to give something back to them and give them an outlet to enjoy themselves and forget about their troubles."

Suicide is the biggest killer for men under 50 in Wales and Time to Change Wales is the first national campaign aimed at ending the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems.

Research says one-in-four people will experience mental health problems and the stigma and discrimination that can often be tougher to handle than the condition itself.

The We Wear the Same Shirt project encourages participation in tailored football sessions across four clubs in Wales: Newport County, Newtown, Merthyr Town and Wrexham.

Wales women's international Tash Harding is also a keen supporter of the programme and the efforts to rid the game of mental health stigma.

The Liverpool striker said: "Football is always seen as a physical game but most of it is down to psychological things.

"Mental well being is just as important as any physical attribute a player has.

"If they can have confidence, belief and mental strength they are in a good place."

Harding cites the work she's done with Wales team psychologist Dr Ian Mitchell as a key part of her mental well being and ability to handle the pressure of elite sport.

Dr Mitchell said: "My role as performance psychologist is to help players, staff and managers deal with the pressure of professional sport.

"Players are in high demand physically and there's a high level of motivation required but many suffer with confidence issues.

"The stigma is there but I'm there to facilitate difficult conversations and communication about mental health."

All three have been in football for a long time and say the game is showing real progress when it comes to mental health stigma but the sport still has plenty of work to do before the problem is solved.

We Wear the Same Shirt Campaign Manager Lowri Wyn Jones said: “We are delighted to be working with FAW Trust ambassadors to illustrate that mental health affects everyone including high profile sports men and women and to use this to encourage participants to get involved.

"We look forward to seeing what the legacy of this project will be and how we continue to sustain the impact of the project beyond the funding.”

Senior Partnership Manager at the FAW Trust senior partnership manager Chris Foot said: “We are really encouraged by the uptake of this project in Merthyr, Newport, Newtown and Wrexham.

"The positive stories that have about through the We Wear the Same Shirt campaign are testament to how socially inclusive exercise can positively impact those with a mental health condition.

"We are actively exploring ways of sustaining the project beyond its’ current funding period and developing it in new areas of Wales.”

Click here for more details of We Wear The Same Shirt

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