Football ground march for mental health and the Harvey McWilliams memorial fund

From April 13 to April 18, 2022, a group of men from ‘ManHealth’ are walking over 130 miles in 5 Days to raise awareness of Men’s Mental Health in the Northeast.

Ethan Todd
25th March 2022
ManHealth organisation - Image ManHealth.org.uk

Trigger warning – suicide and mental health.

Men who all struggle with mental health conditions, who have benefitted from using the peer support groups and other services of ManHealth, are now looking to raise awareness of the crisis within men’s mental health today as well as raising funds to continue and extend their brilliant, necessary and impassioned work.

Moreover, the proposed plan encompasses over 17 football club grounds in the North East as part of the route, starting from Bedlington Terriers Football Club and finishing at the Riverside Stadium of Middlesborough Football Club.

As of today, almost £2,500 has been raised from ManHealth yet the group involved hopes to hit their target of £10,000.

The march for mental health has taken on new, tragic meaning, as during the planning of the walk terrible news came from one of the members of the group that one of their own had unfortunately lost their son as a result of them taking their own life, to the devastation and heartache of all involved.

Therefore, the march will now be in loving memory of Harvey McWilliams, after gaining his angel wings on Tuesday 21st December.

Aged just 18, Harvey had started University in Exeter with his whole life ahead of himself. Being from Darlington, he was obsessed with football like most young lads from the North East, with Sunderland A.F.C being his love and passion. Harvey also attended Darlington F.C matches as well as recently adopting Exeter F.C whilst at University.

Michael McWilliams, Harvey’s father outlined that:

‘It came like as a total shock & I was in disbelief as Harvey was not struggling with his mental health, we need people to be aware of this’

Harvey was also a talented footballer himself, playing for Darlington All-stars, Blackwell Rangers, Darlington Football Club’s Academy and most recently, Exeter Panthers AFC.

Sporting memorabilia has been auctioned in order to raise funds towards a permanent Harvey McWilliams memorial fund based in Exeter set up by Exeter Panthers AFC.

A signed Exeter Chiefs rugby ball, a signed Swansea City Football Club shirt as well as a Manchester City Football Club tour have all been sold in support.

Signed Swansea City FC shirt for auction - Facebook (Michael McWilliams)

‘ManHealth’ are a not for profit organisation founded in 2015 by Paul Bannister, dedicated to supporting men of all ages through mental health difficulties with the ultimate aim of suicide prevention ‘through support, shared experience, education and camaraderie’.

They are hoping to encourage as many people as possible to join the march, as the supporters walk through various footballing towns in the North East, hoping to spark conversations and awareness for the mental health of men.

A pertinent area of social change necessary in the world today given that "just over three out of four suicides (76%) are by men", constituting the biggest cause of death for men under 35 within the United Kingdom.

Football has been blighted by those in the game openly and discreetly suffering with mental health struggles, akin to those of Danny Rose openly admitting his depression issues as well as the former Newcastle hero, Gary Speed, who took his own life in 2011.

Surrounding the aforementioned link to the march of various football grounds, the beautiful game is associated with such happiness, joy and distraction for those battling with the complexities of mental health problems.

A study conducted in 2004 illustrated in ‘A role for football in mental health: The Coping Through Football project’ concluded that "watching football did appear to offer what some fans called escape from the trials and tribulations of the real world" through the social interaction and positive emotions of football.

However, this march is not just about the sport of football. It is about the silent crisis men in this country are suffering from today illuminated by the fact that the North East yielded the highest suicide rate in England and Wales during 2020, according to ManHealth.

ManHealth, in their heroic and magnificent efforts run a network of weekly peer support groups which are free to attend, a live chat service available seven days a week as well as training opportunities for workplaces to enable better support for the mental health of their team.

ManHealth mental health wellbeing service - Facebook (ManHealth)

Please find below the football clubs and dates for the planned visit, as we at The Courier and ManHealth encourage you to join the march in support or donate to this wonderfully admirable and important cause:

We at The Courier passionately strive to do our best to promote the mental well-being of our contributors and editors, friends at University as well as our family members; and we implore anyone struggling with their mental health to please reach out for help whenever it is necessary.

In loving memory of Harvey McWilliams and anyone reading this who has been affected by mental health struggles - ManHealth: March for Men-tal Health in memory of Harvey McWilliams (enthuse.com)

  • 116 123 (The Samaritans contact helpline)
  • 0800 689 5652 (National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK)
  • www.manhealth.org.uk

Proposed Route – 13 to 18 APRIL 2022

13 April DAY ONE: Start: 8.00am Miles 20

Bedlington Terriers FC NE22 5DA

Blyth Spartans NE24 3EZ

Cramlington Town FC NE23 3BE

Whitley Bay FC NE25 8HR

North Shields FC NE29 0LH

14 April DAY TWO: Start 8.00am Miles 22

North Shields FC NE29 0LH

Darsley (NUFC Training) NE12 9SF

St James Park NE1 4ST

Gateshead FC NE10 0EF

South Shields FC NE34 9PH

15 April DAY THREE: Start: 8.00am Miles 25

South Shields FC NE34 9PH

Sunderland AFC SR5 1SU

Seaham Red Star SR7 0HP

Peterlee FC SR8 5DJ

Hartlepool FC TS24 8BZ

16 April DAY FOUR: Start: 8:00am Miles 27

Hartlepool FC TS24 8BZ

Spennymoor Town FC DL16 6JN

Bishop Auckland FC DL14 9AE

Shildon FC DL4 1EZ

17 April DAY FIVE: Start: 8:00am Miles 22

Shildon FC DL4 1EZ

Darlington FC DL1 5NR

Stockton FC TS19 0QD

18 April DAY SIX: FINAL DAY Miles 6

Stockton FC TS19 0QD

Middleborough AFC – Finish

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AUTHOR: Ethan Todd
Aspiring football journalist studying at Newcastle University.

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