Changing Room; transforming lives
Instigated by the Scottish Association for Mental Health, The Changing Room piloted at Hibernian FC in 2018 with one aim: to promote men's mental health and wellbeing through the power of the beautiful game. Statistically, it has been revealed that males feel less comfortable opening up about mental health issues present and past. The Changing Room - a 12-week programme using football as the common passion - is intended to provide an environment where fans of various clubs, with unique but common histories, can feel encouraged to open up about what they have been through.
At Easter Road Stadium the 12-week course has included a 'walk and talk' around the pitch perimeter, a walking football match, a guest speaker (former Hibs player/manager Yogi Hughes), and weekly get-togethers fuelled by coffee and refreshments in the ground's Famous Five stand. Similar sessions were rolled out by SAMH at Heart of Midlothian on the other side of the city, and subsequently, senior clubs across Scotland.
On October 25th, the inaugural 'Alumni' event was hosted at Hampden Stadium in Glasgow. Representatives of Changing Room programmes from Hibs, Hearts, Kilmarnock, Rangers, Aberdeen, Dundee United, Greenock Morton, Montrose, St Mirren, and many more clubs, convened to celebrate having completed the 12-week course. Speakers included SAMH and club coaches, and former Hearts, Rangers and Wigan Athletic centre-half, Andy Webster.
This get-together was hugely successful, with speakers and participants unanimous about The Changing Room being cathartic and inspirational: open discussion and sharing stories is a key aspect of recovery and continual wellbeing, and the general destigmatisation of mental health. Individuals who have lived through diverse challenges, covering a range of psychiatric/psychological issues, can gain confidence through empathy and understanding. The 12-week programmes have also provided participants with access to a community of new friends and confidantes that can be tapped into on an ongoing basis.