Sunderland fans launch mental health hub at Stadium of Light

A new match-day mental health hub at Sunderland AFC’s Beacon of Light has proved to be a countrywide hit.

The hub, launched in November, operates throughout the season and offers supporters free, informal and confidential help on match-days.

The brainchild of SAFC’s Branch Liaison Council (BLC) is the first of its kind in the country.

Joanne Youngson, who runs the Hub, said:

The BLC has lost a number of members to suicide, so the aim of the project was not only to provide a safe space to talk on match-days, but also equip our members, club staff, Foundation staff and SAFC policing units with skills to help and signpost anyone who may be suffering.

“Our branches transport thousands of fans each season. We are like an extended family.”

Miss Youngson, studying for a MA in inequalities and society at the University of Sunderland added:

“With the support of the club and owner, we are looking to organise a half-day mental health conference at the Stadium. Working with other football clubs and the local Mind charities. We want to explain our journey, the benefits and how this can be replicated.”

Recently, the EFL launched mental health campaign #HeadsUp where Miss Youngson was approached by key figures from the footballing world, including Chelsea, Spurs and Newcastle, looking to discuss their work at Sunderland.

Sunderland’s Supporter’s Liaison Chris Water said:

“The initiative has been fully set up by our BLC with full support from the Foundation of Light. The BLC should be very proud of the hard work they have put in all season to this to make it happen.

“Fans supporting fans is a strong message and displays the caring community we have across our fanbase.

“Supporters should know that their fellow fans are available to talk if they need to on match days.

“Sunderland AFC will give full backing for as long as it’s needed. It’s important we take mental health issues seriously and football reaches out to so many people.

“As a club, we should be proud our own fanbase leads the way.”

The hub is open on match-days at the Foundation of Light between 11:45am till 2.45pm.

More information can be found here.



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