Declan Rudd said promoting mental health work in the community has been especially important to him since the Coronavirus pandemic struck, after picking up the club’s Community Player of the Year award for the second year running.
The Lilywhites’ No.1 was also crowned as the club’s PFA Community Champion for the 2020/21 season having continued to play a key role in promoting Preston North End Community and Education Trust, the club’s official charity.
Rudd has become an ambassador for the Trust’s work in its Health and Wellbeing sector, and the goalkeeper recognised that as being a poignant issue over the last year or so, with so many people’s mental health being affected by the consequences of the pandemic.
Speaking to iFollow PNE about the issue of mental health, the 30-year-old said: “Especially with what’s gone on over the last 18 months, it’s probably the biggest issue with health in the community throughout the country.
“It’s the one thing that sometimes people can’t recognise that they’re suffering with it. Another thing is that people don’t want to tell people that they’re struggling mentally because it can come across weak or however you want to look at it. But it’s actually a strong person that comes out and speaks to people about it.
“I think just making people aware that speaking about it to friends, family or even someone completely neutral who’s professionally trained can sometimes help instantly. I think with having gone through some things myself, it was important to me to get that message across to people.”
Rudd has developed a friendship with participants on the Trust’s ‘Goals’ mental health programme, which is supporting three young people to build their confidence, communication, resilience and leadership skills.
Joe, Oliver and Charlie are enrolled on the ‘Goals’ programme, first meeting all together at Springfields in February last year, and more recently catching up via Zoom last week, allowing Dec to see the trio develop.
He added: “To be able to come out and talk about it, I’ve seen Joe particularly grow immensely over the last couple of years. He’s a diamond. To go through what he went through and come through this side of it and to have grown up to be comfortable talking to other people about his situation, it should inspire many people to do the same.
“That’s why I’ve put as much time as I can into [helping] them lads because what they’re doing deserves every bit of credit that they can get. If it means someone else would do the same thing through them showing how strong they are, that’s all that matters.
“I can’t talk highly enough of them and I’m proud of them. I only met them a couple of years ago and I feel like we’ve got a great connection and every time I speak to them, they’ve gained in confidence.
“I had a chat with them last week and the way they’ve come through, especially what they’ve gone through, and then to go through a pandemic like this, it’s unbelievable and it shows the type of people that they are.”
The Trust’s mental health provision is set to expand with the Preston branch of Andy’s Man Club soon moving to Deepdale; a weekly men’s mental health group encouraging men to have a conversation about their mental health.
Dec continued: “When you’re in the rut of struggling mentally, it seems like the biggest thing in the world to talk to someone about it. Once one person opens up, you generally see that a lot of other people start to share their problems.
“They always say that a problem shared is a problem halved and that is so true when it comes to mental health. Just speaking, having one conversation with someone can lift the cloud above you and help you go forward and see clearly.
“There’s people with terrible things going on that have had terrible things happen to them and it’s very, very hard to get through that. Talking to people, talking to the right people and getting the correct advice can just help you come through that slightly and if it helps just that little bit, that’s a step forward.”
The custodian was especially delighted to win the award knowing that small acts of kindness in the community can mean so much to supporters.
“People put in a lot to football clubs, they dedicate virtually all their free time to supporting football clubs, especially at the weekend. Just for a player to spend an hour with someone is nothing.
“It’s an honour to be presented it because it’s doing something that a lot of people think is a chore, which at the end of the day, it’s an hour or so, a day out of your time.
“If it can change the way someone is feeling or make someone happy or create a moment in their life that they will never forget, then how can that be a chore? I take this award with massive pride.”
Watch more from Dec by clicking on the video above, in which he also discusses his eagerness to return for pre-season and plenty more.