Preston North End Community and Education Trust is providing continuous support to three young people on its flagship programme ‘Goals’, which is focused around supporting their mental health.
The programme has been running for over a year, and was first accessed by 14-year-old Joe Martin, who was referred to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) four years ago, and had been making steady progress with his mental health battle until he tragically lost his father to suicide in 2018.
Joe’s mum Jenny sent an email to Preston North End, as the family’s local EFL club, to gauge whether any support could be provided, given the EFL-wide partnership with the mental health charity Mind.
Joe met with the Trust’s Assistant Head of Community, Harriet Creighton-Levis, and a bespoke mental health programme was developed for him to build his confidence, communication, resilience and leadership skills by accessing unique opportunities at Preston North End.
As well as being a volunteer on the Trust’s half-term soccer school camps and a matchday volunteer – assisting with the co-ordination of the half-time penalty shoot out for primary school children – Joe had the chance to meet the Preston North End squad at Springfields.
Following his first visit to the training ground in October 2019, Joe has since been challenged to act as a mentor for his younger brother Oliver, as well as another young person who lost their father to suicide – eight-year-old PNE fan Charlie Bennett.
Joe, Oliver and Charlie and their families have been brought together to provide emotional support for one another, both for the young people themselves and for their parents to share their experiences.
Oliver and Charlie have accessed similar opportunities within the club as Joe, with insights into different areas of the sport, and Charlie even enjoying a trip to the DJ control room on a home matchday earlier this year.
The trio all also enjoyed a trip to Springfields together as Joe was tasked with enacting his mentor role to show Oliver and Charlie around as they again met the players and received an exclusive tour of the facilities from Paul Gallagher.
Declan Rudd has played a huge part in the programme and the development of Joe in particular, remaining in touch through lockdown since this most recent visit to the training ground, which saw Rudd and manager Alex Neil join the boys for a penalty shoot out!
Speaking at the training ground earlier this year, after their special day at Preston North End, which also began with a tour of Deepdale, all three young people shared their experiences of how football has benefitted their mental health.
Joe said: “Football makes us feel happy, it’s something we all really enjoy and it takes our minds off everything. When my dad first died, it didn’t [just] stop me playing football, it stopped a lot of things. But football is the thing that makes me happy.”
He has also enjoyed carrying out his mentor role to support Charlie and brother Oliver.
“It’s really good because that’s what I have wanted to do for a long time, help someone else out who has been through something a bit like I have. For Charlie, it’s great because he feels as though he can connect with his dad because that’s why he’s at PNE.
“I was a bit nervous to first meet Charlie, but he is a pleasure to be around and I’m really proud of him.”
Charlie added: “We’ve all gone through a hard time and we’re trying to help each other.
“It’s made me feel more confident without my dad. We can just play on and just get on with the things we are trying to do.
“Football helps me remember my dad. It helps me feel closer to my dad.
“We used to come and watch North End nearly every Saturday because we are big fans of Preston and we both support them. We need to give them [the players] support for their games.
“In a nice way, in return, I feel so much like dad is still here [when at PNE].”
And Oliver’s thoughts encapsulated the mental health benefits that football can provide for people of all ages.
“One of the reasons that football is one of my favourite things is I think it can bring people closer together, because when you play football ,you don’t have to be thinking about anything else, there’s no stress and you can just play,” said Oliver.
“I think PNE has helped us gaining confidence and helped us relax as well. It’s been a big help because it’s been something to look forward to, watching the games on the weekend and getting to meet the players and spending time here, it’s really helped.”
To find out more about mental health provision at Preston North End Community and Education Trust, please contact Harriet@pne.com.