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Supporter Lou Harvey on Men's Mental Health Awareness Month

13 November 2018

Globally, the rate of suicide is alarmingly high, particularly in men - around the world, on average we lose a man to suicide every minute of every day.

Six out of 10 suicides are men, simply because too many are toughing it out and struggling alone.

Together, we have to take action to improve mental health and reduce the rate of male suicide and this November is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, with men being asked to take part in Movember and grow their taches in a bid to raise funds for worthwhile mental illness causes.

Men’s mental health will have affected many people who are inside the University of Bolton Stadium today, but none more so than one of the club’s staunchest supporters, Lou Harvey, pictured far left.

Lou, who up until recently resided in Havant near to Portsmouth, has been following the Whites up and down the country for 27 years, with her first game coming in 1991 at Fratton Park against Pompey.

Her uncle, who was a Bolton fan himself and the founding member of the London Whites Supporters’ Club, didn’t have time to see his niece and watch his beloved Wanderers – so he invited her to the game and the rest is history.

“I actually didn’t want to go,” she admitted. “I really hated football at the time, but once I experienced an away game with the beach balls flying everywhere and the atmosphere that was created, I was hooked.”

From then on, Lou attended games on a regular basis and even took her sons Sam and Jordan, thus following on the tradition created by her Uncle Bernard.

Outside of football however, she has worked as a Mental Health Support Worker for 24 years, since she herself was just 22, when she met Richard, who she married a year later.

She works in an array of capacities with her role, such as introducing service users with mental health needs and learning disabilities back into everyday life, especially those with long spells of mental illness.

She has supported many people in their journeys back into independent living, with her passion for her role clear to see with her dedication and whole-hearted approach to her job.

Her husband Richard however had spells of depression for many years, with Lou believing that the loss of their son Luke in 1999 played its part.

Mostly acting as a house-husband alongside being a parent governor at Sam’s school, he threw himself into community issues and help to find a support group network for children with Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD.

Sadly however, in August 2017, Richard took his own life.

Ultimately turning his family’s lives upside down, it was something that was completely out of the blue for his wife and son.

“I honestly did not see it coming,” said Lou. “However, it has made me more aware and I am now much more vigilant with not only the people that I look after, but the people around me – my family, friends and loved ones.

“To anyone who is feeling low, it doesn’t matter – just tell anybody who will listen. Even if you don’t feel comfortable to talk to your loved ones, there is the Samaritans, Cruse and various other organisations that are there 24 hours a day.

“The people you love will always protect you and vice versa, and the load that anybody with a mental illness is suffering with is twice as heavy when it is left behind.”

She continued: “It is a life sentence for us as a family and it really changes you – I used to be fun-loving and a social butterfly, but now some days I can’t even leave my house.

“I don’t know how long that will last for, but I am very lucky to have found a partner who understands me and supports me, even on my darkest days. Thank you Gav and everybody else who has been there for me over the past year or so.

“The devastation that is left behind is horrendous, especially to children – we know that our loved ones wouldn’t act so drastically if they were of a sound mind and thinking clearly though.

“That’s why people just need to talk, even if they feel as though it isn’t a real issue, as it can turn into one very quickly and spiral.

“The mind plays tricks and does funny things – we’ve all got our triggers and it’s just about how we react to them. I had spent 23 years of my life with Richard and even as a professional in the mental health industry, I didn’t see the signs.

“Looking back, you start to analyse certain situations and you see small moments where it was something of a cry for help.

“There is still a stigma attached to mental illness and everybody needs to work together to raise awareness of it and ensure that nobody is afraid to speak out.

“It is okay not to be okay and just because you are a man, it doesn’t make you any less of a man to need help.

“There is an answer for everything and a solution to every problem which is what we all need to stress.

“You might feel that all is lost and everything is hopeless, but that is the illness talking and taking over.

“For me, Mind being the EFL’s National Charity for the season is crucial for awareness of a taboo subject and especially with November being Men’s Mental Health Month, it has never been more prominent.

“I implore everybody to get behind Mind, not only this season, but beyond and also ensure that they encourage their loved ones to be as open as possible with them in every aspect of their lives.”

Mind and the EFL

Mind and the EFL (English Football League) joined forces earlier this year to promote the benefits of healthy bodies and healthy minds, by using the power of football to improve the nation’s mental wellbeing in a ground-breaking new partnership.

From the start of the 2018/19 football season, Mind became the EFL’s new Official Charity Partner with a goal to enhance and improve the way that football, sport and society approaches mental health and to seek to increase awareness and understanding amongst fans, clubs and staff alike.

With one in four individuals affected by mental health problems, the EFL has been working with its network of 72 Clubs and community trusts to promote Mind’s message and services to millions nationwide with four ambitions to promote better mental health:

  • Support EFL players, managers and staff
  • Raise awareness about mental health with fans, clubs and staff
  • Raise funds to deliver life changing support
  • Improve the approach to mental health in the EFL, in football and in wider society

Mind were chosen to become the EFL’s Official Charity Partner from the start of the 2018/19 football season on an initial two-year term following a robust tender process.

A high-profile campaign will be developed to ensure everyone experiencing a mental health problem knows how to get support, with clear messaging and advice to be communicated through all 72 clubs, community activity and online promotion.

For more information on Mind, please visit www.mind.org.uk.


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