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How sport can play a role in tackling mental health stigma; THEPROFESSIONALS.

MEN can sometimes find it more difficult to talk about mental health due to societal pressures and expectations and the fear of being perceived as weak.

This can of course lead to a delay in us seeking help, which can result in an unnecessary deterioration in our health and wellbeing.

Time to Change Wales (TTCW) is currently trying to tackle this issue by encouraging men to talk about mental health.

In an inspired move, TTCW has kicked off its latest campaign at the same time as the autumn international rugby matches and the latest football qualifiers for the European championships in 2016.

With both Welsh teams on our television screens and many people heading to the Millennium Stadium for the rugby, the campaign has focused on sport as a means of encouraging men to start more conversations.

The campaign has produced a series of rugby-themed beer mats with the slogans "send stigma to the sin bin", "tackle stigma" and "say balls to stigma", distributing them to pubs and bars across the length and breadth of Wales.

People have been getting in touch after spotting the beer mats in their local pub, and Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews has even tweeted a picture of them from his ministerial office.

We hope that something as simple as a beer mat will spark some conversations between the tens of thousands of rugby supporters heading to the pub to watch their team play the likes of Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, South Africa and Belgium.

TTCW has also produced a series of posters and postcards following on from the success of the #BeExtraordinary #JUSTBEAFRIEND campaign last year.

Each features a TTCW Champion with experience of mental health problems and one of their friends or family members.

The images are accompanied by three short videos on the Time to Change Wales website, which feature each champion talking about the importance of their relationship and being able to discuss their mental health.

You can also access a series of "talking tips" on the campaign's website which aim help people to start conversation about their own mental health or someone else's mental health.

We believe it is really important for people with lived experience of mental health problems to be at the heart of the campaign and we're pleased to have such brilliant volunteers involved in the latest materials.

We're also delighted that the Cardiff Blues and the Welsh Football Trust are backing our campaign to end stigma.

We hope that it starts more conversations and helps people, especially men, to seek help earlier. Whether it's talking to a friend or visiting your GP, taking the first step can make a massive difference.

That's why we're keen to ensure that recent developments in primary care are delivering improvements for people in Wales.

We are currently running our third annual survey of people's experiences of primary mental health services and want to hear from as many people as possible.

If you have visited a GP to talk about mental health during the last year, you can access the survey at It is completely anonymous and you have the option of entering a prize draw to win a Kindle Fire.

The results will be compiled into a report which will be sent to Welsh Government and local health boards, contributing to service development and improvement across Wales. Please take part, share your views and think about starting a conversation with the people close to you.

Ewan Hilton is the Executive |Director of Welsh mental health and wellbeing charity Gofal.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 24, 2014
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