In support of Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16th May), Manchester United Foundation will be running a week-long promotion about all-things ‘wellbeing’. Supported by club captains, Harry Maguire and Katie Zelem, the Foundation will be distributing books, balls and resources to children across Greater Manchester, encouraging them to look after their mental health.
This forms part of the Foundation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a significant impact on young people’s mental health. Social isolation, a loss of routine and a breakdown in formal and informal support has led to young people feeling lonely and isolated.
In an effort to inspire and encourage children to talk about their mental health, the Foundation will be distributing over 5,000 books and balls to children living in deprived areas of Greater Manchester.
Created in partnership with global non-fiction publisher DK, the book has kindly been donated to the Foundation in support of local communities. Aimed at children aged 8-12 years, the 48 page book entitled United Minds: Be positive. Be curious. Be united, features Manchester United-themed activities, advice and self-care tips to inspire and engage children in looking after their overall wellbeing. DK are passionate about making books that are not only fun, but accessible to everyone and inspire a lifetime of curiosity.
Georgina Dee, publisher at DK said: “We know that giving children access to books about things they love, such as football, is crucial to self-belief, wellbeing and having fun. DK is thrilled to be able to contribute to the incredible work of Manchester United Foundation.”
To accompany the book is a small football that features wellbeing phrases. Foundation coaches have put together an array of activities that children can complete either at home or in school that support discussions around mental health and what it means to look after their mental wellbeing.
Club captains Harry Maguire and Katie Zelem fully support the initiative recognising the need to support young people’s mental health. Harry said: “The pandemic has been especially hard for children up and down the country. They have been without regular exercise, social contact and routine, which is bound to have an impact on their mental health.
I’m really pleased the Foundation is tackling those issues and supporting young people across Greater Manchester and beyond. The ‘book and ball’ is a great way to have fun, exercise and look after their overall wellbeing.”
He continued: “As a parent, I know how important it is to encourage children to look after their mental health as well as their physical health. My advice to any young person is to talk about how you’re feeling and seek help from your coaches, teachers or family when you feel down.”
Katie also championed the project: “It’s fantastic to see Manchester United Foundation supporting the mental health of thousands of young people across Greater Manchester. Covid-19 has been incredibly hard, especially for children who haven’t been able to socialise with friends.
The ‘book and ball’ is a great way for children to learn ways in which they can improve their mental wellbeing which is so important during this time, and I hope it really benefits many in the community.”
Ginny Buckley, one of the founding trustees of Manchester United Foundation has been involved since its inception. Ginny said: “At the Foundation we know that healthy bodies and healthy minds go hand-in-hand and as a journalist I am passionate about the power of the written word. A book can transport you anywhere and if you are in a difficult place that could be a lifesaver.”
She continued: “As a parent I’ve seen first-hand how a football and a good book have helped my 11-year-old son cope with the mental challenges he’s faced during the pandemic, I hope our ‘book and ball’ project will do the same for the children who receive it.”
Throughout the season the Foundation has also been working in partnership with local independent mental health charity, Manchester Mind. The charity has volunteered to train 74 front-line staff in recognising mental health concerns in the young people they work with. This training enables coaches to be better equipped in advising children and signposting them to the services needed.
All partner schools and community projects will receive a bundle of assets, which share information and guidance on the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ as well as contact information for services if they’re struggling. Supported by Manchester Mind, this information will also be relayed across Foundation online channels to ensure young people have access to the information to better support their mental and physical wellbeing.
The support will continue into the autumn when students return to school, as the Foundation plans to run two dedicated mental health programmes across partner primary and secondary schools. The work will include Foundation staff running workshops and group exercises, giving young people the tools to better understand and look after their mental health.