One in four

One in four. A quick peruse of Google suggests it’s a pretty popular ratio. At the time of writing this, it is estimated one in four companies will have to lay off staff as the economy slides rapidly into recession. One in four GPs are likely to have seen patients, face-to-face, without PPE. Approximately one in four of Liverpool’s Premier League goals in 2019-20 has been scored by Mohamed Salah, a statistic I find much cheerier! There is of course one more, one which I have spent much of the last decade quoting; approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

It's a privilege to impact lives through campaigning; it's a real joy to see football taking mental health seriously. It’s a privilege to impact lives through campaigning; it’s a real joy to see football taking mental health seriously.

Making a difference

I have, of course, spoken very openly about a life with mental illness. As I sit here today, I know that the story could have been so very different. It’s no exaggeration to say that two minutes are probably the difference between my being alive or dead, and I am always so grateful to the paramedics and medical staff who saved my life on a cold January night in 2006.

That experience has left, in me, a deep humility. As I said recently, I can neither take credit for the work of others nor for divine intervention. What I can, however, do is make every day and opportunity count to impact on the lives of others.

And I count myself blessed, as an ambassador for Mind, that those opportunities have been so prevalent, both directly through them and via the network I have been able to build as a mental health campaigner, marathon runner and HR leader.

It has always been a privilege to have been at the forefront of a shift in attitudes around mental health, not only in the UK but further afield. It has always been a gift to be involved in so many great campaigns, some of which you can see here.

Football and mental health

Latterly, it has been wonderful to see the worlds of football and mental health come together to raise awareness.

I have no hesitation in saying that football has always been critical in maintaining my mental wellbeing, and often was the one thing that gave me hope at times when darkness seemed to be closing in from all directions.

More importantly, football is so representative of the groups where the stigma around mental health has been the most difficult to break down. Football, as a sport, has gone beyond “working class young male” stereotypes, it is a multi-billion pound industry. However, the reality is that it has still remained a breeding ground for young men for whom confronting vulnerability has been non-existent.

Mind’s partnership with the English Football League has been groundbreaking, and followed quickly by the HeadsUp campaign between the Football Association and Heads Together. I am very humbled to have been involved in both.

One in four

This brings me very nicely to this morning’s lockdown run. There was a reason why I added a few miles and headed out to Wembley Stadium; it’s fair to say that the area around Wembley Park and the stadium was eerily quiet!

I had not run along the Grand Union Canal solely for solace, however. What I went to see, on my run, was an installation of artwork on the Spanish Steps which connect Wembley Stadium to the adjacent Arena.

Frank Styles, a Sunderland based artist, has collaborated with Mind and the EFL as part of their partnership, to raise awareness. The installation took place prior to lockdown but the launch was on Thursday 7 May and will be there until the end of September.

You can read the press release but the brief description is below.

Artwork by North-East based spray can artist Frank Styles adorns the Spanish Steps with an abstract and thought-provoking design. A series of 12 portraits run down the steps; viewed from head-on, three of the portraits on each section of the stairs are visible, but the fourth can be seen only if you look over from the adjacent flight. Called, One in Four, the work symbolises that understanding mental health problems and how they can affect people sometimes requires a shift in perspective.

The collaboration originated as part of the English Football League (EFL) and Mind’s charity partnership which aims to raise awareness about mental health problems among football fans. With one in four people typically experiencing a mental health problem each year, raising awareness that we all have both physical and mental health to look after is an important part of the EFL and Mind’s work.

The Frank Styles installation on the iconic Spanish Steps - One In Four in partnership with Mind and the EFL The Frank Styles installation on the iconic Spanish Steps – One In Four in partnership with Mind and the EFL

A personal interest

Admittedly, I did have a vested interest in seeing the installation. The image at the top right belongs to none other than me!

As I said, I’ve been privileged to be part of some pretty amazing campaigns in the last year with the Heads Together and Mind. This is totally different… for a start, all I had to do was provide some words and photos. The incredibly talented Frank did the rest and the photo above demonstrates the amazing creativity brought to the final product.

12 football supporters who know the joy that football has brought us but also know how football has been essential in our survival, quite literally.

The photo above is great but it looked even better in person and I can’t wait for the day, whenever that may be, when we can all gather together and I can return to Wembley to really explore it. Today was nothing more than a flying visit on my run.

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Football – core of society, driver of change

The reality is simple. We continue to make incredible progress in changing the dialogue and landscape around mental health. Football is at the very core of our culture and society and is such a very powerful force for change.

I know how important is has been for me and others, and I know that it can continue to bring people together, to provide a place where people belong, where they are not judged, where they find hope and joy in supporting their team even when not everything else makes sense.

Well done Frank Styles on an amazing piece of work and thank you to Mind and the EFL for, again, inviting me to be part of such a powerful project.

Special memories

I actually didn’t know, this morning, that today is 28 years to the day since the FA Cup Final of 1992. Back then, the Cup Final remained the highlight of the football calendar and the 17 year old me was beyond delighted and excited to be at the old Wembley to see Liverpool win the Cup against Sunderland. It was the kind of day you live for and one I will never forget.

I was sat virtually level with the edge of the 18-yard box in line with Michael Thomas’ magnificent goal. Rushie got the other one… but it was Wembley and a Cup Final, so Rushie always did.

I was already ill by then but didn’t know it. However, my love of football prevailed and I prevailed, perhaps against the greatest odds. The paramedics truly scored in the last minute to save me and every day of extra-time brings thanks and opportunity.

To be back at Wembley today and see myself in art on the iconic Spanish steps; well that’s not just special, it’s absolutely mental!

Rohan Kallicharan

Rohan is an award-winning mental health campaigner and speaker with lived experience of mental illness. He has been involved in a number of high-profile campaigns to raise awareness and break down the stigma around mental ill-health. He is a sub-3 hour marathon runner, HR Director and husband to Claire.