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Football is coming together this weekend with the ambition to kick off biggest ever conversation around mental health, as new research shows just 1 in 3 football fans regularly talk about mental health with their friends.
For two weekends in February, every football team from across the Premier League, English Football League, The National League, The Barclays FA Women's Super League, The FA Women's Championship, The FA Women's National League will dedicate their matches to Heads Up, a partnership between The FA and Heads Together.
Spearheaded by HRH The Duke of Cambridge, the season-long Heads Up campaign aims to harness the influence and popularity of football to normalise the conversation around mental health, working closely with charity partners Mind, CALM and Sporting Chance.
The ‘Heads Up Weekends' will highlight the power of talking as a way to support one another and dispel stigma, with activity planned at fixtures across the men's and women's football calendar. Over 8th - 9th February and 14th - 17th February, clubs of all levels will feature Heads Up branding across stadiums, programmes and player kit, in a major unifying moment that aims to get the nation talking about mental health. Over the weekends, clubs will also be releasing their own short films featuring players talking about mental health and showcasing the work they do to improve mental health in their communities. Meanwhile, the Scottish FA are also supporting Heads Up over the 8th - 9th February, with activity planned at eight Scottish Cup Fifth Round fixtures.
To officially kick off the Heads Up Weekends, and marking Time To Talk Day on Thursday 6th February, the Duke of Cambridge joined players, managers, representatives and fans from the men's and women's game to take part in a table football tournament and a mental health conversation at Heist Bank in London.
It comes as a new Heads Up survey of 2,014 football fans, carried out by Censuswide, showed:
• Football is the number one topic of conversation (75%) between fans and their friends
• However, only 1 in 3 (34%) football fans regularly talk about mental health with their friends - with male fans much less likely to do so (27% of male respondents, compared to 47% of women). Overall, male football fans were over three times more likely to talk about football than mental health with their friends (83%, compared with 27%).
• Meanwhile, 40% of football fans find it easiest to talk about their mental health while busy with other activities - such as while walking or running, driving, going to the pub, or watching sports with a friend. Meanwhile 32% would find it easiest to have a face to face conversation at home with no distractions.
Men's and women's football is now coming together to call on everyone to talk more about mental health in order to normalise the subject and help remove the stigma that prevents many - particularly men - from speaking out.
In a message included in every matchday programme over the Heads Up Weekends, HRH The Duke of Cambridge wrote:
"Imagine if we talked about mental health as much as we talk about football.... Many of us won't go a day without talking about it. And whatever team we support, every single fan, player and manager has one thing in common - we all have mental health, in the same way that we all have physical health. And we will all face ups and downs in life which will affect it. It's time we start taking our mental fitness as seriously as we do our physical fitness, and that starts with talking."
Kelly Simmons, the FA's Director of the Women's Professional Game said: "It's significant that clubs across the men's and women's football pyramid are uniting together around such an important societal issue. Over recent years the women's game has been home to inspirational role models who have spoken with courage about their mental wellbeing and now because of the Heads Up campaign and the excellent work conducted by the leagues and clubs, we hope that these individuals are no longer the lone voices but part of a societal change for us all to speak more openly about mental health.
"We're grateful to all our clubs in the Barclays FA Women's Super League, FA Women's Championship and FA Women's National Leagues for their unequivocal support and look forward to the positive change that this weekend will have."
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