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Palace fans unite for fourth Walk and Talk mental health event

Eagles fan, Palace for Life supporter, and mental health advocate, Paul Price talks to us about the upcoming Walk and Talk event on Sunday, the fourth of it's kind to boost mental health awareness amongst football fans.

“As we enter a new season of walks to Premier League grounds, Crystal Palace fans again link up and are walking in solidarity with opposition fans on a matchday. All participants on these #WalkAndTalk events are committed to raising awareness of Mental Health and Suicide.

These walks have grown hugely in the past season and made a significant and positive impact to many participants and people generally with some very notable examples.

Figures for 2018 sadly show an increase to previous years in the number of suicides within the UK. 

These awful statistics show that there is still so much work to do, that we need to try and reverse this awful trend and that we need to try to remove the stigma of Mental Health. 

This issue needs to be pushed and addressed in order to make Mental Health a subject that people can feel comfortable talking about and in turn, use this as a platform to start to combat suicide.

The sad reality is that many of the suicides could be avoided and certainly reduced if people found the bravery to talk to others and find support from friends, family, charities or even strangers.

These #WalkAndTalk initiatives are about recognition of the issues and football fans coming together to try and make a difference.  This is done in raising that awareness, in talking about things in person or on social media around the event and actually demonstrating that it is OK to talk to others if you are in a bad place and need some support.  We are proud that we are taking on the next event in partnership with Samaritans #RealPeopleRealStories campaign which focuses on men who have been through tough times sharing their stories to inspire and help others.

To date, Palace fans have joined up with opposition fans on three occasions in the past year to try and address these issues and to do our bit to try and change the perception on Mental Health on a larger scale.

Around 70 Palace and Fulham fans walked together from Craven Cottage to Selhurst back in last February, around 135 joint fans walked in solidarity from Selhurst to The Emirates back in April 2019 and, then about 60 fans walked from Crystal Palace to Dulwich Hamlet in July for the pre-season U23 friendly game.  All of these events have been very visible and have definitely made an impact which we now hope to grow and evolve into the future. 

Luckily for Palace fans, we have won all the matches that we have walked to so far.  We need to continue for this reason too, as the walks could see Palace getting into Europe and/or winning the Premier League!!

In fairness, the football and the results are secondary to what we have been doing and have just been used as the mechanism to bring people together and to send out a very strong message.

Following the success of these walks to date, fans of both Crystal Palace and Arsenal have again linked up for a further event which will take place on Sunday 27th October 2019 for the Palace away game at the Emirates.

This will of course be yet another mental health and suicide awareness walk from Selhurst Park up to the Emirates Stadium in North London.  The fans will cover a distance of around 12 miles which will take about 4 to 4.5 hours of actual walking (excluding stops).

The walk is being undertaken as a direct result of personal experiences of many of the participants and also because of horrendous statistics on mental health and male suicide which are covered in more detail below.

Mental health impacts 1 person in 4 but is much further reaching as it can have an impact on friends and family of sufferers.  This in turn creates a tough and challenging environment in the home, at work or in social situations in many circumstances.

Male suicide covers 75% of all suicides in the UK and is the biggest killer of men under 45 years of age.  It is estimated that roughly 13 men take their own life every single day which in 2018 equated to part of an absolutely horrific 6507 suicides in total across both men and women.  

A staggering 4903 (75%) of the reported suicides were male and 1604 (25%) were female.  These numbers are awful to read and needs to be addressed by everybody in society as it is “our” problem that can impact anybody at any time.  These terrible statistics are something that we all need to face up to because the issue is not going away and in turn all of us in society need to take more responsibility in whatever way we can.  This can be anything from being more aware and kinder to people, checking in on friends and family, by actually talking ourselves or by undertaking initiatives to try and push the agenda as we are doing in the football community.

Help is out there in many places and in many forms but, men typically bottle things up and take on too much pressure and stress without releasing it, which can lead to terrible circumstances.  These stresses and pressures are often bought on by life and how society expects us to behave as men.

We and society therefore need to make a stand and take responsibility in addressing this together and as a whole.

Many people that have organised and joined the walks have had personal experiences of mental health and some have even contemplated suicide in the past.  As a positive spin on this, these people do also however have the experience in the power of talking, seeking help and what benefits these things can bring.  

The belief is that talking is the most powerful tool available, it is the starting point to recovery and can in turn improve and save lives.

The walk is the centre-piece to bring people together, it is not just male-centric and is aimed at ladies too. The walks are incredibly inclusive and designed for both sexes, all ages and all abilities so that anybody is able to participate and make a difference for themselves and others.

The #WalkAndTalk initiatives are aimed at demonstrating how powerful talking is and as such are organised as a very sociable and friendly event.  Other than the actual walk, the true vehicle to publicise the message is the media or social media of the event where the message can be spread easily and reach out to many people.

Undertaking the event on a match-day with opposing fans walking together sends out a very powerful message in a world where football fans can be too easily stereo-typed in negative ways.

Football itself is huge and powerful, it reaches every corner of the world and therefore billions of people.  Many of these people will suffer with mental health issues, may have contemplated suicide themselves or will know somebody that has made the decision to take their own life.

The profile of football fans is also perfect as a lot of supporters and fans that attend games, watch games and are generally interested are men under 45.  Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 years of age and, this profile alone makes football a fantastic conduit to reach potentially vulnerable people that may be suffering and trying to cope alone.

In the modern day and game, football is also followed by people of all ages, across both sexes and therefore getting the message out to encourage people to talk and seek help through football has huge potential.

The embedded tweet from ITN London news below shows the walk from Craven Cottage to Selhurst Park and gives a view of the initiative, what we are trying to achieve and footage of the event. 

The walks are generally not about raising money and are all about raising awareness.  They are aimed at sending out a message to encourage people to open up, to talk and to understand that they are not alone.  The walks are to actually demonstrate that is OK to talk and in turn “normalise” this in order to try and remove reservations of other men in expressing their feelings and seeking help.

To get involved in the Palace to Arsenal #WalkAndTalk event or to find out more, please contact Paul (@HC15OnTour) on Twitter.

Stops and estimated times are shown on the following table.  As mentioned above, the event is very inclusive for all abilities and designed so that people can join or leave at any point.  The event is open to anybody whether they have a match ticket or not.

All stops are actually pubs that are next to train or tube stations where people can easily wait for the walk to arrive before they join.

If you need help, or want to talk to someone in confidence, contact:-

  • CALM on (Nationwide) 0800 58 58 58, (London) 0808 802 58 58, or visit their website now
  • NHS 111
  • Samaritans 116 123 “

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