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Newcastle United Foundation launch text support service

Newcastle United Foundation launch free mental health text support service on World Suicide Prevention Day

Newcastle United Foundation is launching a free mental health text support service to provide thousands of North East football fans with confidential wellbeing advice when they need it most.

To mark World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, the official charity arm of Newcastle United is introducing the 24/7 mental health textline for anyone struggling to cope – whether they are dealing with anxiety and loneliness, to issues around self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

From United’s next home game at St. James’ Park on September 17, supporters visiting the stadium can expect to be handed pocket-size business cards from the Foundation detailing signposts to the free offer of support.

By texting ‘BAGC’ to 85258 at any day at any time, textline users will be put in contact with a trained volunteer or clinical supervisor. Texts are completely free, anonymous and do not appear on phone bills.

Ashley Lowe, Newcastle United Foundation Health and Wellbeing Manager, said: “We know the coronavirus crisis has had an enormous impact on all of our lives and while we have clear data to show how Covid-19 affects us physically, it is much harder to know what effect this has taken on our mental health.

Newcastle United Foundation mental health awareness session at St. James’ Park

“We believe issues like unemployment, loneliness and economic hardship will have exacerbated feelings of being unable to cope, and, for some, this may have led to an increased self-harm and suicide risk for people here in the North East.

“Crisis can affect us all and looks and feels different to everyone, but we know suicide is preventable, and we all must do more to reduce the risk for ourselves, our loved ones, colleagues and neighbours.”

Highlighting the importance of launching the service on World Suicide Prevention Day, Ashley added: “Simply starting a conversation with the person next to you in the stands at St. James’ Park, or your friends at family at home or down the pub could make all the difference to someone experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“We hope this new service provides a talking point for all United supporters, but suicide prevention doesn’t have to be overwhelming – even a ‘hello, how are you?’ could save a life.”

The rollout of the ‘BAGC’ textline is the latest initiative from the Foundation’s Be A Game Changer campaign which offers mental health advice and support to adults in the North East – starting with United fans.

From the charity’s dedicated campaign webpage and social media, the Foundation shares tips on keeping physically and mentally healthy, signposts to support for yourself or a friend, and a space to tell the stories and experiences of Magpies supporters.

Be A Game Changer also provides mental wellness-boosting sessions like Sleep and Stress workshops, Walking Football for older players of the game and Peer Support Group meetings at St. James’ Park.

The ‘BAGC’ mental health text support service is operated by Shout, a registered charity which hosts more than 1,000 conversations every day, most commonly dealing with issues around suicide, depression, anxiety relationships, loneliness and self-harm.

Ashley said: “We want everyone connected to our Club and Foundation to know that they are not alone – whatever they are going through.

“We are committed to helping anyone who may be struggling, and this new text service is a simple and effective way for supporters to access the support they need, particularly for those who feel they have nowhere else to go.

“If you’re feeling down, anxious, depressed or worried, please text BAGC to 85258 and you will be listened to.”

Be A Game Changer is funded by Newcastle City CouncilPremier League Charitable FundNorth East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network, andThe National Lottery Community Fund, reaching hundreds of children, teenagers and adults through a number of community sessions each week to support mental wellbeing.

To access the Foundation’s free Be A Game Changer business cards to distribute within your organisation or community, email ashley.lowe@nufc.co.uk

For more information about Be A Game Changer or for help and advice from Newcastle United Foundation, visit nufoundation.org.uk/beagamechanger

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