Everton Football Club have announced plans to provide mental health care in the shadows of the stadium as they launch a campaign for a purpose-built facility.
The club and their official charity Everton in the Community hope to raise money through a fundraising drive for a permanent facility called The People’s Place.
The centre, which the club hope will be built next to community centre the People’s Hub on Spellow Lane in Liverpool just 500 metres from the Goodison Park ground, would be open to anyone and provide support relating to suicide awareness and prevention, as well as promoting positive mental health.
Club manager Marco Silva said: “Since the first day I arrived at the club, everyone talked to me about the Everton Family.
“We are more than just a club, we are a family. We want to keep creating this fantastic connection between us and our fans and all of the community.
“We want to support them, and we want to give them something back. “This People’s Place project is important to us as a club. Me and my staff are here to support and do everything we can.”
Last year former England winger Aaron Lennon, then playing for Everton, spent time on the sidelines as he received treatment for a stress-related illness at The Priory in Darlington and Altrincham, and also at Salford Royal Hospital.
He later thanked fans and the club for their support “after a difficult period”.
The new campaign, which has the backing of the first team squad, will also see all of the club’s staff given accredited training to educate them on mental health, how best to identify if someone is struggling and where and how to signpost them to support.
Everton in the Community already runs mental health-focused programmes and services across Merseyside.
Everton CEO Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale said: “Our new facility will work to encourage people to talk more freely and will operate an open-door policy to anyone needing to talk.
“There is a real demand for this in our city and our community. Since we opened the People’s Hub we have had people walk through our door seeking mental health support and I’m proud to say we have supported those individuals. Residents in Liverpool, members of the L4 community and our fans see us a beacon of hope and support.
“Working alongside colleagues at the club, Everton in the Community, external partners, patrons, our supporters and residents we plan on using our skills, expertise and profile to fulfil our aim of building a facility that will help save the lives of people suffering with mental health issues.”
The club will be working with mental health charity Chasing the Stigma, which was founded by Evertonian Jake Mills and aims to remove stigmas attached to mental illness, and academic research partner Edge Hill University.
Mr Mills, CEO of Chasing the Stigma, said: “It is testament to the club that they want to build on the life-changing and pioneering mental health programmes they operate.
“The People’s Place will offer an environment that that will make people feel comfortable when talking about mental health and – most importantly – that they know help is available and no one has to suffer in silence.” www.irishexaminer.com