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Non League Football News

Friends Must Talk - 3 January 2020

A former football coach is hoping drink mats will encourage young people to talk about their mental health. Writes Kate Wilson in the Bristol Post

friends must talk mental health issues

Bristol businessman Martin Williamson has set up a company called Friends Must Talk, which sells drink mats to sports teams. The mats provide information and advice on what to do if you are struggling with mental health issues and the signs to look out for in others.

He says the aim is to break down the barriers and stigma associated with mental health.

Martin, 52, who used to manage one of the boys football teams at AEK Boco in Hanham, said he felt he had to do something after a local footballer took his own life earlier this year.

“What was really surprising was that people who knew him well said that he seemed fine the last time they saw him,” said the father-of-two. “It really got me thinking why most of us find it so difficult to speak about mental health issues that we may be experiencing and how someone can be at breaking point and yet still decide not to talk to someone and get help. The next day I decided to send a message out to all of the lads in my old boys team and the response was quite emotional and surprising.A couple of them were really grateful that I had reached out and clearly wanted someone to talk to about what they were feeling.This coupled with a good family friend suffering with mental health issues at the moment got me thinking about what I could do to help.”

Local grassroots clubs in Bristol are already using the mats in their bar areas and one coach in Sussex has placed an order for 2,500 of the mats which will be given out to the 50 clubs in his league.

"It's great that people seem to be interested and support the idea," added Martin. “I just think for someone who might be struggling and having a drink in the football club with the lads may pick up their drink, look down at the mat and be encouraged to talk to someone about what they’re going through. My hope is that they will maybe help save a life and encourage young people to talk rather than keep things bottled up inside."

To find out more about the drink mats and how to order them visit the Friends Must Talk website.

Most people who are thinking of taking their own life have shown warning signs beforehand. These can include becoming depressed, showing sudden changes in behaviour, talking about wanting to die and feelings of hopelessness.

These feelings do improve and can be treated. If you are concerned about someone, or need help yourself, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123.

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