Molly Bartrip, Ben Chilwell, Beth Mead, Viv Miedema and a host of international players call for others to join in taking action to tackle the mental health crisis.
With the growing mental health issue in both sport and society, a group of players, community groups, and other football stakeholders have joined forces to launch Create the Space, a collective initiative to equip football at all levels with the knowledge, skills and resources to understand, prevent and deal with mental health issues.
Top players with lived experience in mental health challenges, which currently affect one in four people in the UK, have taken tangible action to harness the power of football to tackle mental well-being challenges. Tottenham Hotspur acting-captain, Molly Bartrip, England and Chelsea FC left-back, Ben Chilwell, England and Arsenal forward, Beth Mead, Viv Miedema, the Netherlands and Arsenal striker, and the former Watford, Bolton Wanderers and England U21 forward, Marvin Sordell, have called on athletes, clubs and football stakeholders to join Create the Space.
Through Create the Space, Common Goal will develop a holistic approach involving the whole football ecosystem, both top-down, from club executives, industry leaders, first-team managers and elite players, and also bottom-up, from community organisations, fan groups and academies. In this way, Create the Space will not only use football as a tool to tackle mental health at a grassroots level but also enable the elite level of the sport to become a space where everyone feels encouraged and comfortable to express themselves both on and off the pitch.
Based on the belief that everyone, at every level of the game has the potential to become a mental health champion and play an active role in creating a supportive environment for their peers, Common Goal will team up with Football Beyond Borders in the UK to pilot an integrated, experiential and holistic programme to empower mental health champions, ensuring that individuals throughout the football ecosystem are equipped to be supportive on and off the pitch.
Alongside Football Beyond Borders, Common Goal is also working with other leading community organisations who work with thousands of youth participants at high risk of exclusion such as Street League, Girls United and Bloomsbury Football. Common Goal has also worked in collaboration with leading mental health experts and institutions in the UK, U.S. and globally.
Common Goal’s initiatives, such as Create Space, are supported internationally by the Right to Dream community and Mr Mohammed Mansour, founder and chairman of Mancapital which owns Right to Dream. Key parts of the Right to Dream community are its academies in Ghana, Egypt and Denmark, plus San Diego which is opening soon. Right to Dream believes that by offering multiple pathways to academy players, in football and education, they help to remove some of the pressure to ‘make it’ as a professional footballer. That singular focus can lead to mental health challenges, but having a more holistic approach to development recognises that there is excellence in football on and off the pitch.
Ben Chilwell, Chelsea and England left-back, 26, said: “I have had my own mental health journey and I felt unsure about where to turn to for support. It’s down to our generation to change this and ensure that throughout football, all the way from the elite level to young people in community organisations, we have each other’s backs and we’re equipped with the tools to help ourselves and those around us. We need to move from talking about mental health to taking action, and Create the Space provides the platform for everyone wishing to take action to play a role in tackling mental health issues, whether they are playing in the Premier league, in the playground, or in the park.”