Bilbrook Junior Football Club’s Under 18s team has become the first team in the country to throw its support behind a local charity that supports men with their mental health.
The Wolverhampton-based side has decided to donate its shirt sponsorship deal to‘Mandem Meetup Wolves’ in a bid to get the important message across to boys aged between 16 and 18-years-old.
The charity, which was originally set-up in Manchester and is now running in Wolverhampton by local men Christian Denton and Jamie Lewis, will have its logo on both the home and away kits that will feature in more than 25 league and cup games in the Midland Floodlit Youth League Northern Premier Division.
It is hoped that this exposure will get young men to consider their mental health and to encourage them to talk and share any issues they are dealing with.
Whilst the sponsorship deal is the first move, both Bilbrook and Mandem Meetup Wolves are now looking at holding dedicated hikes, boxing sessions and wild camps to ensure the conversation continues.
Matt Ford, Manager of Bilbrook Juniors Under 18s, commented: “We know men have got a lot better with reaching out and talking, but has that same message got down to 16 and 18-year-olds who are going through some profound changes as they start becoming adults?
“As a club, we feel very passionate about the wellbeing of our players and felt that we had to do more than just say we supported the cause and decided to forge this link with Mandem Meetup Wolves.
“At first it will be increasing exposure to the activities of the charity, but that will just be the start. Christian and Jamie have already spoken to our lads about what they do and we’re looking to come together to host other events to really get the message across.”
Mandem Meetup Wolves is a non-profit organisation that was set-up at the start of this year to create confidential spaces where men can talk to other men that have experienced their own mental health issues, making the conversation more relatable in the process.
Over 130 local people are already part of a ‘WhatsApp’ group, with many of them attending a range of mindfulness and physical activities, including a ‘Work In, Work Out’ programme, hiking up the Wrekin in Shropshire, meditation, talking circles, homeless outreach, boxing and wild camping.
It is a proven approach to getting men to open up after it was first rolled out in Manchester by Jamie Dennis three years ago.
Wolverhampton has become only the second city to have adopted the ethos of Mandem Meetup, largely due to the dedication and commitment that both Christian and Jamie showcased to its founder.
Christian, who is a Boxing Mentor, was in the process of turning his life around after spending the early part of his life involved in football hooliganism, when a chance meeting at a festival sparked a conversation and the rest is history.
“I definitely went on the wrong path when I was younger and now that I have managed to come to terms with my struggles and overcome them, I want to put something back and help other people who may be having their own issues,” explained Christian.
“Mandem Meetup instantly reflected my new approach to life and mixes outdoor activities with talking forums from people who have been there and experienced their own struggles.
“Mandem Meetup Wolves has got off to a great start and this sponsorship with Bilbrook will be fantastic for raising awareness locally and for engaging with young adults in Wolverhampton.”
Lifelong friends, Christian and Jamie both grew up on the same estate in Dovecotes, having reunited later in life to overcome their own hardships. Now, as a team, they are bringing their expertise and personal experiences to help spearhead Mandem Meetup Wolves.
Jamie faced his own battles and found the pressure of rising in the construction industry overwhelming, forcing him into a downward spiral with alcohol that eventually saw him turn to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Now, two years sober, he’s also determined to give something back.
“Sport is a great way to focus the mind, but it can also bring its own pressure and that’s one of the messages we want to get across through our partnership with Bilbrook Juniors FC,” added Jamie.
“They key is to make sure young men – aged 16 to 18 – know there is someone out there that they can talk to in confidence. And it’s not a case of chatting across a table – we get out in the outdoors to take the pressure off and make the conversations more informal.”
He concluded: “We had a really positive response from the players and hopefully we’ll be doing lots of exciting events together in the future.”