Sunday’s FA Community Shield clash between Liverpool and Manchester City will kick-off the Heads Up campaign and a season of activities aimed at driving the biggest ever conversation on mental health.
Launched with Heads Together and spearheaded by The FA president, The Duke of Cambridge, the initiative will harness the influence and popularity of football to help show the nation that we all have mental health and it’s just as important as physical health.
According to The FA, rival managers Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have both commended the campaign as they prepare to face each other again ahead of the new term.
“It’s so important, all over the world as well,” said Klopp, whose Liverpool side are in the Shield after finishing second behind Premier League and Emirates FA Cup winners City.
“I’m not an expert, but it seems to me to be an illness that doesn’t discriminate. It effects all ages, all genders, all backgrounds, all incomes and wealths, all nationalities.
“It’s a big issue but an issue where we can find a solution. People can seek help and the help is there. If this game helps more people realise that it’s something any one of us could suffer that’s good – because people should not feel embarrassed about illness.
“It’s very much an issue in professional sport as well as the other walks of life. As a coach and manager, I care about all issues that affect my players and staff. As a husband, parent and friend, I care about the issues of the people in my personal life.
“I do know as a society we have to keep pushing the message that asking for help when you need it is the most important step you can take.”
Guardiola was equally wholesome in his praise for the campaign, as he brings his team back to Wembley following their Emirates FA Cup Final victory over Watford in May.
“There’s no doubt there is a stigma that still exists
when we talk about mental health and that needs to change,” said the
former Barcelona boss.
“I want to live in a society where mental health is considered as important as physical health, and initiatives like Heads Up are a great way of achieving that.
“I hope everyone takes time to think about those close to them who have suffered in silence, and let’s try and find a way of making the conversation around mental health more open and honest. It’s the only way we will move forward.
“Everyone at Manchester City backs the Heads Up campaign and I want to personally thank the FA and the Heads Together charity led by The Duke of Cambridge for the work you are doing.”
The launch moment will be marked during Sunday’s pre-match ceremony, when a short film by The Duke of Cambridge will introduce Heads Up and encourage both sets of fans to join in the singing of the clubs’ anthems, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Blue Moon’.
The singing will be led by two community choirs – iChoir from Liverpool and Bee Vocal from Manchester – who were both created to support mental wellbeing and to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health.
The campaign will strive to raise awareness, spark conversation and signpost support for those in need, with a crisis text support service established.
If a fan wants immediate support they can also text ‘HeadsUp’ to 85258 to connect with a trained crisis volunteer, who will chat to them by text message, sharing only what feels comfortable, and help them through the moment, working together on a plan for longer-term support.
This service is available 24/7 and free to text from most mobile networks. It is run by ‘Shout’ and powered by Crisis Text Line.