Friends and family are being urged to lend a listening ear to one another when visiting Ricoh Arena for their next rugby fix.
It Takes Balls To Talk – an initiative encouraging more people, especially men, to talk about their feelings – will be deploying an army of volunteers in the Wasps Nest Fan Village on Saturday 7 March between 12pm and 2pm ahead of Wasps’ Gallagher Premiership clash with Gloucester Rugby.
The mental health awareness campaign uses sporting themes and key messages to direct people to sources of support when they feel they need it.
Alex Cotton MBE, Founder of It Takes Balls To Talk, said: “We have worked alongside Wasps for four years to increase awareness that talking about your mental health is one of the strongest things you can do.
“Together, we are encouraging people to be ‘listening mates’ and to not be afraid to ask their friends and family members how they are feeling.
“If you think your mate is ‘off their game’, then ask how they are doing. Listening is so powerful in the route to feeling ok.
“It is vitally important that as a community, we are doing all that we can to remind people who may be suffering in silence that they are not alone, and there is help available if they need it.”
Wasps’ England international Brad Shields has thrown his support behind the Club’s efforts to raise mental health awareness by shaving off his beard for the mental health charity LooseHeadz, which has raised more than £1,000.
It Takes Balls To Talk’s matchday initiative has also received the thumbs-up from Wasps Club GP Ralph Mitchell, who made Wasps the first top flight rugby union side to introduce mental health screening to all of its first-team players during pre-season.
Ralph said: “One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some stage of their life, and when you take into account the size of a rugby team that is a significant chunk of the team, which is why I moved to introduce mental health screening at the start of the season.
“The process we follow for the first-team is something that everyone can incorporate into their own life – and it’s all about taking time out to reflect how you are feeling.
“At the start of pre-season we got the players to fill out two questionnaires relating to anxiety and depression, to which if they scored highly, we would then proceed to one-on-one meetings and provide recommendations for treatment.
“It sounds simple, but if having this process in place just makes more of the players conscious of their feelings, then it is working.
“One of the societal issues we have is that we ask people how they are doing as if it is just a figure of speech, but we actually need to stop and listen properly if someone doesn’t sound right, as it could lead on to a conversation that could ultimately change someone’s life for the better.
“Having It Takes Balls To Talk at The Ricoh is a great initiative to prompt people to get talking to one another on the day, and hopefully it will become more of a regular occurrence moving forward to keep the topic front of mind.”
For more information about It Takes Balls To Talk, visit www.ittakesballstotalk.com
Tickets to Wasps v Gloucester on Saturday 7 March are available by clicking the link below or calling 02476 786411.