Mental Health and Football

Mentally Healthy Football Declaration

Many of you may have already seen the BBC documentaries with Prince William and how he is spearheading a campaign called Heads Up ( “The idea is to use football to harness the influence and popularity of football to help show the nation that we all have mental health and it is just as important as physical health. The campaign will strive to raise awareness, spark conversation and signpost for those in need...this campaign aims to encourage more men to feel comfortable talking about their Mental Health.” 


On Monday 27th July the football family came together to sign the Mentally Healthy Football Declaration, committing to building a mentally healthy culture at all levels of the game, now and for future generations. They are all untied around a common goal to develop a mentally healthy culture across the game. The declaration is there to make MH a top priority of our game. 



 I have decided to raise more awareness for MH in the County and want to use football to help drive that forward because it is an area that is incredibly close to my heart. I have had a history of MH issues in my family from a young age and have been through my own share of MH difficulties in the past and I appreciate and recognise the importance of MH and how valuable and significant football has been throughout to help me through those periods in my life.  


Furthermore, I currently work at a SEMH school in Leicester and work with children and young people who may be in crisis and in need of MH support. I am also a trained Designated Senior Lead in Mental Health and a Safeguarding Lead.  


Combining both personal and professional aspects together, I am inspired to start something in our County which will hopefully help many people. I am determined to show people that support is out there for them, that it can be normal to talk about MH and above all that it's sometimes okay to not be okay.  



 The idea initially is that a link to a survey is sent out along with this email and this will act as the initial starting point to gauge people's interest and availability. Due to social distancing restrictions and current guidelines I am looking to set up a Zoom meeting (more than one if interest is high) and have a group of people come together to discuss the topic of MH and football in our County.


The vision ultimately will be to help more people, both men and women, young and old, come together and talk about how we can use MH and football purposefully to try and get more people talking about MH, signposting if necessary and possibly putting on projects in the County to aid this. Some suggestions may include running CPD sessions at County FA, football sessions on the 3G at Holmes Park, literature being distributed to clubs, having club MH 'Champions' and many more and I will share this with you all over Zoom. Ultimately the end goal is to have a MH working group, formed of a group of people who can support and offer guidance within the football family in our County. 


Prince William talks about this week around developing ‘mentally healthy clubs’ at every level and this is absolutely a key aspect of the vision and work going forward. It is really important that the culture and environment is embedded within clubs across everywhere and that a support network can be in place when required. 


Leicestershire & Rutland County FA  

 ''This is a very important initiative that the Leicestershire and Rutland County FA supports and we will be interested in discussing how this informs the work of our Inclusion Advisory Group. The FA is committed to building a mentally healthy culture at all levels of the game, now and for future generations. As a County FA we believe that we have a key role to play within this commitment, using the power of local football to improve the mental health and inclusion of those currently involved in the game and for future generations”. 


Surinder Sharma (Inclusion Advisory Group Chair for the Leicestershire and Rutland CFA) 



 Please find below the link to the survey. It is a very short survey around your availability and whether you would be interested in initially being part of a group where we talk around MH and football and what that may look like in the County. It is available to every volunteer, coach, manager, parent, carer and referee in the County to complete. Once the deadline for the survey has passed and the feedback analysed I will then send out some Zoom dates and times for people to be part of. Depending on numbers, there may be more than one running to try and give as many people the opportunity to talk and be part of this. I will try my best to accommodate the most favourable day and time for people. 


Click here for the survey 


Closing Date - Monday 31st August 2020 


There is no expectation upon anybody wishing to be part of the group to talk about their own MH issues, should they not wish to. Under no circumstances is anybody obligated to talk about their own feelings or life experiences but should they feel comfortable in doing so then they are more than welcome to share those with those around them. I completely understand it can be a sensitive area for many and I totally respect that.  


This initial group(s) that will meet is simply to get a better understanding of what the appetite is amongst people in Leicestershire and Rutland and for us share ideas, questions and thoughts around what it could look like. Although I have my own ideas and thoughts, I fully recognise this is something we can only do together and want it to be a collective effort. 


Now more than ever, due to COVID-19 MH is undoubtedly more prevalent in our society than ever before and in some areas, it already is, according to recent research and data. Football’s role in breaking the stigma around MH has never been more important. I am incredibly passionate about this area and would really like you to be involved and share your thoughts around this. I am pleased to say a few people have already agreed to be part of it and I hope many more of you are able to join in and we can unite in recognising that speaking about MH is seen as a sign of strength, rather than weakness. 


If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. I can be reached on this email or on the number below. Even if it's to just have a conversation, please feel free to message or ring.  


I hope you will join me and others in trying to create our own legacy in Leicestershire & Rutland and ensuring future generations benefit from the work we do today around Mental Health. 


Thank you in advance 


Kind Regards, 


Rahi Popat 

07709 824 747