A Twitter connection led me to Bob Broomhead and his Go Again project, it looked like the sort of thing that pressed a lot of buttons for me, we had a good Zoom chat back in February. Having interviewed David Priestley, a Consultant Psychologist, while he was at Saracens a few years ago it was great to see potential mental health issues being recognised by a professional. So, here, in Bob’s words is what Go Again is all about! I look forward to hearing how the initiative is moving on.
I’m a mental health nurse working for the NHS, I started working in mental health 15 years ago. This was shortly after a bereavement. Working in mental health definitely helped me at a time where I could have gone in a very different direction.
During my early days of working in an acute inpatient unit I observed that several people we were supporting had experienced being released from elite sporting environments. I promised myself that one day I would try to set up a service that helps people in this position. It took me a long time to be in a position to try this and to have the confidence to give it a go.
My thought has always been that clubs may benefit from having mental health nurses and other mental health professionals with differing skillsets working within their club including at academy level.
I sent a proposal to local clubs and have been to meet with five academies in my local area to discuss what they may find helpful. This was a great experience and I learnt that there are still many areas in regards to mental health support that support can be improved’
We have spent a lot of time and effort trying to offer support to current organisations within sport and we have attempted to apply for funding from these services so we can carry out a service free of charge. We have been told that they do not currently require our support and we would have to offer the same level of support to every club to receive financial backing.
There is however clearly a passion out there for people to learn more about mental health and to support those going through mental health difficulties.
After reflecting on this I managed to find like minded Mental Health Professionals who wanted to keep pushing and develop Go Again.
We decided would like to offer support to those who may not be ready to engage with current services, don’t have access to them such as younger players, released players and coaches. Also those who have engaged but need more intensive mental health support due to complex needs.
A reason for wanting to support coaches was from an observation that it is often the coaches who have a lot of responsibility and pressure and possible less likely to seek help within a fast paced and high-pressured environment. We would like to offer a fast response and confidential line for coaches to contact us. This can be for advice about a player they are worried about or for support to manage their own resources to support others.
We received feedback that young people especially would like content to look at if they are not comfortable to reach out for help. We decided to turn mental health resources into easy read graphics related to sport.
We have now developed some wellbeing packs for current players, released academy players, and coaches based on our experiences and observations of working in mental health for the last 15 years. It provides quotes from people in our services about what has helped their recovery during times of difficulty. We also use examples of people within sport who have suffered rejections and gone on to either further their career in sport or in other fields.
We have started developing packs for different age groups. We also provide links to various mental health resources such as websites and apps. We will research local mental health services for different clubs who express interest. We would like to make these packs individualised to different clubs’ philosophies.
We are lucky to have the support of graphic and web designers who have been able to turn our content into professional looking wellbeing packs..
After building a website and promoting our service on social media we were able to connect with current and ex-players and coaches. After speaking with these people we realised that a good model would be for Mental Health Professionals to work alongside people from a sporting background to offer people support from people who have experienced their industry and setbacks within it.
We have offered support by some fantastic people such as current Blackburn winger Tythys Dolan. Tyrhys has made a huge difference and has a really strong passion to help us support academy players who have been released. Sadly Tyrhys lost his best friend Jeremy Wisten who took his own life shortly after being released from an academy.
We are also lucky to have the support of former Salford City player Gareth Seddon, current Millwall player Frank Fielding, Academy coach Alex Pope, former UK Armed Forces Head Coach Nick De-Long and former Bristol Bears rugby player Will Hurrell who had to retire last season due to a head injury. All the above have offered to support released players in a mentoring and advisory role.
We are slowly building our work and have been supporting agencies to support their players via Zoom. We are about to announce our first official aftercare package with a League Two Academy and a new Football Development Centre in London. We are also providing content for an educational platform called Mi Mentor.
We hope to continue building our team and becoming accessible to more and more people within sport.
We continue to offer our support to organisations such as the PFA, EFL, Premier League, FA, LFE and Sporting Chance. We are offering our support to chase up released players who they have not managed to contact. Things are moving on I’m happy to report.