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Mr Carlisle is now the mental health champion for the Professional Footballers’ Association.

Campaigning footballer at men’s mental health event

Former professional footballer turned campaigner Clarke Carlisle met experts who help to keep people in the South West safe and well at an event held today to discuss how they can tackle male suicide and mental health problems.

It is hoped that the event will lead to better mental health support for men in the future.

The meeting, organised by University of Exeter historian Dr Ali Haggett, Active Devon and Exeter City Football in the Community, was designed to encourage charities and others who currently help men to work more closely together and discuss what works. They hope this will result in more effective support being provided in the South West.

Around 78 per cent of suicides in the UK are in men, and middle-aged males are most at risk. The delegates at this event discussed how to raise awareness of this problem and reduce the stigma associated with mental health. They also discussed the importance of prevention and the role of physical activity, sport and other social and cultural activities in fostering good mental health.

Mr Carlisle is now the mental health champion for the Professional Footballers’ Association. He founded the Clarke Carlisle Foundation for Dual Diagnosis after attempting to take his own life as a result of mental health problems.

Those attending, including representatives from Public Health England, Devon and Cornwall Police, Age UK, Exeter CVS, Sport England and MIND, talked about how they can collaborate to help prevent mental illness among men; help those with chronic mental illness to manage their illness; and how best to intervene in crisis management. The event allowed attendees to explore opportunities for new solutions, partnerships and approaches, funding and research.

Mr Carlisle spoke about the importance of supporting friends and colleagues, and how schools should educate pupils in how to promote good mental health.

“I hate the disparity between physical and mental health, they both have a spectrum which we all fluctuate between on a daily basis,” he said.

“Intervention is so important, and often this can start by observation and human interaction, and we can all do that.”

Dr Haggett is an expert on the history of male mental illness. Her research has examined the longer history of men’s mental illness and suicide, illustrating how men have been much more likely than women to end their own lives for over two centuries. Her work has explored male mental health in the workplace and the role of ‘masculinity’ on male mental health. She believes examining historical trends helps us understand what’s going on today and offers innovative solutions to policy and practice.

Dr Haggett said: “We’ve seen how, for over 100 years, men have been less likely to recognise symptoms of mental illness and more likely to experience physical symptoms – such as back ache and stomach problems. The emotional aspect of these conditions is not always detected, so numbers of men with mental health problems are often underestimated.

“Men are much more likely to self-medicate with alcohol, and often reach crisis point without help or support. Most suicides are preventable, and we hope that this event will help us develop positive interventions in the South West.”

Andy Sloper, from Active Devon, said: “Getting more physically active, especially with others, is great for your mental wellbeing and helping you cope. By working together to promote mental wellbeing, prevent mental illness and tackle stigma, we can make a huge contribution to the wellbeing of people in Devon.

“This meeting will help us harness the power and potential of sport and recreation to make a real difference.”

Jamie Vittles, from Exeter City Football in the Community, said: “The PFA and football clubs in Devon are working hard to use sport, not just football, and physical activity to promote better male physical and mental health in the county.”

Exeter City Football in the Community, the Plymouth Argyle Community Trust and the Devon County FA are working together on a new project called Every Player Counts, which supports young people and adults with mental health issues.

Date: 19 September 2016

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