On Monday [10 May], to mark the beginning of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Surrey FA and our mental health partner Beder combined to host a panel event.
We were joined by guests including Richard Glynn-Jones [FA National Referee Manager], Tarik Kaidi [Founder of Minds United FC] and Jay Jones [semi-professional footballer and mental health advocate] to discuss the prevalence of mental health concerns in football and to highlight the people and projects which exist to support them.
The event was open to everyone with an interest in football or mental health, and saw coaches, referees and the wider footballing community within Surrey and beyond come together to hear best practice and discuss the best ways to reduce the stigma that still exists today.
Beder founder Razzak Mirjan introduced some of the exciting initiatives they are working on, including the launch of Beder FC, an open-to-all football team, raising awareness and normalising the conversation around mental health and suicide prevention.
As part of our wider partnership with the charity, Beder FC will play all their home games at SFA’s £8m community facility at Meadowbank Football Ground in Dorking. Razzak reflected on the recent successful fixture between Beder FC and Heroes of Waterloo FC, which was featured on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday. Beder FC includes former Fulham FC players Barry Hayles and Sean Davies, as well as Beder ambassador and FA Inclusion Advisory Board member Marvin Sordell, who highlighted the importance of supporting others from within the game.
Our partnership with Beder, which began in January 2020, highlights the two organisations’ commitment to raising awareness of mental health and suicide prevention across the County. This joined up approach is helping us to establish greater mental health training opportunities for everyone involved in football across Surrey, and to help raise awareness of what support networks exist locally.
We will bring the partnership to life further in the coming months through a new video series featuring Surrey FA clubs across the grassroots game talking about mental health. And Beder will stage a 5-a-side charity event at Meadowbank with our staff taking up a place as one of the 16 competing teams in June.
Within our County FA, we’ve noted an increase in the number of our stakeholders, including referees, coaches and club members, who've asked about how they can better support others within the game with their mental health. This demand will be used as a platform to provide ongoing training throughout the coming seasons and will see Surrey FA deliver our widest range of training specific to mental health awareness to date over the next 12 months.
In March this year, to coincide with the return of football, we hosted a bespoke mental health workshop for referees, delivered by Nathan Sherratt, mental health advocate and Founder of The Third Team. In addition, we have commissioned a series of Youth Mental Health First Aid courses, delivered by Mental Health First Aid England, providing industry-recognised qualifications at heavily subsidised rates for those working with young people.
These courses will equip committee members, welfare officers, coaches and referees with the tools to recognise signs of poor mental health and to be better placed to support their own football communities as a result.
Mental health is so important to all of us and having open and frank discussions around the topic, and dealing with it head on, is crucial.
As a local County FA we have a platform which allows us to deliver education and share the message of opening up, and we are very pleased to be working with an important partner in Beder to harness their expertise in this field in order do exactly that.