In short, FC Not Alone are building one of the world’s first mental health football clubs – a team that everyone can support.
In a chance encounter, I met Matt Legg and Ian McKenzie (co-founders of FC Not Alone) at an event in 2018, where Leon McKenzie (former professional footballer) spoke about his mental health struggles. This was the first time I had ever gone out of the way to attend an event where mental health was the focus. I came away feeling inspired and for the first time ever I wanted to share my story– that night really showed me the true power of storytelling. Ever since I met Co-Founders Matt and Ian at this event, I have been a proud supporter and member of the FC Not Alone movement. Over the last 3 years I have built a strong relationship with Matt and Ian, not only because of our shared love of the beautiful game (most of the time), but because we believe that football can be a true vehicle for change when it comes to men’s mental health.
Back in 2019, Matt, Ian, Alex Stanley and myself hosted an in-person panel event on the topic of football and mental health. Somewhat poignantly we hosted this event on the top floor of the WeWork office block on the Southbank, London. Poignant because this was the exact same location that I was stopped in my tracks by #Project84, CALM’s stunt to raise awareness of male suicide (84 reflective of the number of guys who die by suicide every week). At the time I didn’t really think much of it, but now when I think about that location, it certainly holds a unique place in my heart. Since then, the suicide rate among men has sadly not decreased. The 2019 data from the Office for National Statistics reported the rate of male suicide to be at 16.9 deaths per 100,000 – the highest since 2000. In 2019, men still accounted for three-quarters of suicide deaths (4,303 of 5,691). This is of course a complex and multi-layered problem that we face as a society, but I do believe grassroots movements in environments where men frequent are crucial to creating spaces for guys to speak.
Since its beginning in 2018, FC Not Alone has been using football to help achieve the goal of breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. In the last few years, society has made many positive changes in terms of being more vocal about mental health, but there still isn’t enough being done to provide simple, practical solutions. This is why, together with adidas, FC Not Alone will provide Football-For-All sessions, making sure football can be enjoyed by everyone. One of the biggest challenges with getting people involved in football is the idea that it can be a hyper-masculine or aggressive space. FC Not Alone is fighting this perception by bringing people together in a positive, healthy way. Currently FC Not Alone have an 11 a-side team that plays in a competitive league, although they will be the first to admit that this is not enough. There is a huge opportunity to do more - to help more people and to prove that football is a sport that can benefit everyone.
Working together, adidas and FC Not Alone aim to provide Football-For-All sessions and offer mental health coaching and coping tools to everyone who needs them. Long term, there’s an opportunity for FC Not Alone to enter the football pyramid and compete at some of the highest levels, however, for now they are fully committed to ensuring that football is used as a safe space for all.
I will continue to keep you updated on developments over the coming months, but for now, please show your support for FC Not Alone and check out their Instagram page here
Remember, if you need to talk to someone, CALM offer a free, confidential helpline, every single day, from 5pm to midnight – 0800 58 58 58