Neil Lennon backs men’s mental health charity launch

Neil Lennon with Changing Room volunteer Andy Grierson.
Neil Lennon with Changing Room volunteer Andy Grierson.
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HE’S faced down his demons off the pitch, as much as the battles he endured on it.

And arguably he is all the stronger for it.

But for Hibernian manager Neil Lennon, opening up to talk about his own struggles with mental health – depression if you want to be more specific – was one of the most important moments on his own journey.

His success in management, after those as a player, are testimony to his ability to stand strong.

Yesterday was his chance to stand up with those looking to encourage more middle-aged men to open up and discuss their mental health too.

He has given his backing to a new initiative that looks to harness the power of football in local communities, to reach those in need of their own support.

Which was why he was happy to help kick off The Changing Room project when it was unveiled on his home turf at Easter Road.

It is a plan for a two-year pilot project – between mental health charity SAMH, the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) Trust and Hibs.

Working together, it is aimed squarely at encouraging men in the 30-62 age bracket to talk about their mental health.

And there’s sound reasoning behind it, backed up by numbers.

Official figures show that in Scotland, men are now two and a half times more likely to take their own life than women.

It’s a startling figure by any standard, but one that has ushered in an urgent need to create and promote new attempts to overcome that like The Changing Room project.

The scheme is the very first mental health initiative in Scotland to be funded by global men’s health charity, the Movember Foundation.

And Lennon said he didn’t even have to think when asked if he would lend it his backing.

He said: “I’m delighted to support The Changing Room.

“It’s a great opportunity to promote positive mental health and wellbeing and I’d encourage men to get involved in this programme that could be the kick-start to something new in their lives.”

The first group of men taking part in the programme will meet at Easter Road once a week for 12 weeks.

The roll-out will look ahead to start positive conversations about mental health.

And the charity behind it says they are convinced it can have a big impact on helping those struggle to make sense of it all,

SAMH external affairs director Jo Anderson explains: “In talking to men we learned that large numbers in their middle years struggle to talk about their feelings, their mental health and how to ask for help.

“Working alongside Scottish football clubs, such as Hibernian, and using the power of football we will bring men together in spaces that they associate with, trust, and feel they belong.

“We hope by starting conversations about mental health that The Changing Room will make a real impact to the lives of those who take part.”

shaun.milne@jpress.co.uk