A SCHEME to combat discrimination against people with mental health issues has been launched with the support of the Wales football team.
Time To Change Wales says the issue of mental illness affects one in four people in the United Kingdom every year, with 90% of those experiencing stigma and discrimination.
The anti-stigma initiative was announced at Wales’s game with The Netherlands at the Cardiff City Stadium last week, where the Welsh football team showed their support for the campaign.
Chris Coleman, Manager of Wales Football team, said: “Stigma around mental health conditions severely affects lives, as the discrimination that they experience can prevent them from feeling a part of society.
“One of the reasons I work alongside people like Ian [Mitchell, Wales and Swansea City Performance Psychologist] is that the mental health aspect of our sport is crucial and I believe that having positive mental health is a key part of success in football.
“We have created an environment where the players are able to talk about their feelings and emotions on and off the pitch. After all, we wear the same shirt, despite the nature of our mental health.”
Three Welsh mental health charities joined to form the Time To Change Wales campaign – Gofal, Hafal and Mind Cymru. The ‘We Wear The Same Shirt’ scheme is funded by Sport Wales who donated £104,000 as part of their Calls 4 Action funding initiative.
The campaign will use social media to raise awareness by using the hashtag #SameShirt. Members of the public can also sign personal pledges on what they will do to combat the issue at www.wewearthesameshirt.org.
The anti-stigma programme uses sport to help sufferers. Already in place at Merthyr Town FC and Newtown AFC is a weekly scheme designed for people with mental health issues. The teams run sessions designed to use sport to help inclusion.
Premier league football clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal took part in a similar scheme last year, but this is the first time this has been done in partnership with Football Association Wales.
Dominique Lyons, leading the We Wear The Same Shirt programme at Time To Change Wales said: “We’re delighted to be working with the FAW and our participating clubs to not only tackle discrimination but also provide an understanding football programme that will support people living with a mental health condition in getting active. We want all of Wales to stand up to stigma.”
Football clubs Wrexham AFC and Newport FC have now signed up to the campaign and plan to start their programmes next Autumn.