On World Mental Health day, Oumar Niasse helped Everton in the Community’s Imagine Your Goals programme celebrate its 10th anniversary when he dropped into one of its sessions on Tuesday.
The Senegalese striker visited Clock View Hospital in Walton, Liverpool, to spend time with some of the participants from the award-winning Everton in the Community programme to find out more about how the project helps them deal with, and overcome, their mental health battles.
Niasse was led around Clock View Hospital, a new generation of purpose-built inpatient mental health provision, by Mersey Care staff and EitC’s Health and Wellbeing Manager Johnnie Garside. The Toffees forward had the opportunity to see the facilities before he joined the group for a relaxed chat about their time on the programme.
“I really learned a lot today,” said Niasse. “I met some good guys and it is always important for us to come and see these programmes and how they help people in an environmental outside of football.
“Ten years of this programme is a big achievement and I’ve seen how important it is to people. It makes you feel that Everton is not just a club that plays football every week and who only looks after healthy people who can play, they look at people’s lives in the community and see how they can help them. Learning that has made me respect the Club even more and especially those people around the Club.
“I always try to help people because I know what it means. I have lived with people who have had mental health problems. My uncle was in the same situation as the guys in the Imagine Your Goals programme before he passed away. I know what it means to be close to them [people with mental health issues] and to talk with them – he was one of my best friends. It is always important to come and help give that motivation, to show them that you are with them and you are as normal as them.”
Supporting more than 200 individuals a week, ‘Imagine Your Goals’ has been delivered collaboratively with Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust since October 2007 and offers local people who are living with mental health issues an opportunity to talk about their problems and seek help and support in a familiar environment.
The success of the programme has seen Everton in the Community establish Merseyside’s first-ever mental health football league and the charity now delivers five more programmes tackling mental health issues to isolated individuals across the city in collaboration with Mersey Care and Edge Hill University.
For more information on Everton in the Community's Health and Wellbeing programmes visit www.evertonfc.com/community