Time to talk: SAFC and Gentoo back 'Heads Up' campaign

Sunderland AFC manager Phil Parkinson and the club’s community partner, Gentoo, came together on Thursday afternoon, as football united to help kick off the biggest ever conversation around mental health.

Following the launch of ‘Heads Up’ – a partnership between the FA and Heads Together – the Black Cats boss took part in a mental health team talk with local trades people at the Stadium of Light, as part of Gentoo’s support for the mental health campaign ‘Time to Talk Day’. 

Spearheaded by HRH the Duke of Cambridge, and working closely with Mind, CALM and Sporting Chance, the season-long campaign aims to harness the influence and popularity of football to normalise the conversation around mental health.

SAFC will continue to support ‘Heads Up’ this weekend when they take on Ipswich Town, as every team from across the Premier League, EFL, National League, Barclays FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship and FA Women’s National League dedicate their matches to the campaign.

Running across a two-week period, the ‘Heads Up Weekends’ will highlight the power of talking as a way to support one another and dispel stigma.

Clubs of all levels will feature ‘Heads Up’ branding across stadiums, within matchday programmes and on player kit in a major unifying moment that aims to get the nation talking about mental health.

After teaming up with Gentoo, Phil Parkinson said: “Mental health is very topical and it’s important that it is. As they say, ‘it’s good to talk’. Don’t be embarrassed and get things out in the open because a lot of people will be living through the same feelings that you are having. I think we have made great strides in the country towards people feeling like they can open up, but the more awareness we can get across, the more people we can help.”

Gentoo’s chief executive officer, Nigel Wilson, added: “It was great for colleagues and I to have the opportunity to hear Phil’s insight on mental health in football and how this relates all walks of life. Raising awareness of mental health is about ensuring people are supported in the right way and made to feel comfortable about speaking out. Too many people suffer in silence and the impact of this on individuals and their families can be dramatic. It’s great to work with the club as a community partner to jointly tackle a really important issue that affects many local people.”

To officially kick off the campaign, the Duke of Cambridge joined players, managers, representatives and fans from the men’s and women’s game on Thursday to take part in a table football tournament and a mental health conversation at Heist Bank in London.

Join the conversation using #KickOffAConversation and #HeadsUp.

Find out more and get tips from Heads Up’s charity partners, including Mind, CALM, Sporting Chance and Heads Together, by visiting www.headstogether.org.uk/heads-up.

Those wanting immediate support can also text ‘HeadsUp’ to 85258 to connect with a trained crisis volunteer – a service run by ‘Shout’ and powered by Crisis Text Line, which is available 24/7 and free to text from most mobile networks.

For further advice and support, please visit www.mind.org.uk.

For more information about Gentoo, please visit www.gentoogroup.com.

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