Everton Under-23s players Anthony Gordon, Ryan Astley and Mateusz Hewelt joined Club Ambassador Graeme Sharp this week in visiting Everton in the Community’s ‘Tackling the Blues’ programme at The People’s Hub.
The young trio and Everton’s leading post-war goalscorer spent the afternoon with pupils from Hillside Primary School who take part in ‘Tackling the Blues’, an initiative that supports young people aged six to 16-years-old who are experiencing, or are at risk of, developing mental health problems.
During their time at the Hub, the Everton quartet joined in a series of interactive activities which included Connect 4 and Jenga.
These activities were designed to encourage young people to articulate how social media could influence positive or negative feelings and emotions, as well as improve decision-making skills and build trust.
“We provided a local secondary school that has been involved in the programme since its inception with the opportunity to take part in the event,” explained Jack Mullineux, Tackling the Blues Coordinator.
“The students involved enjoyed a stadium tour at Goodison Park and met current and past players during a workshop session which focussed on the theme of social media and mental health. It was a successful and enjoyable event that promoted young people’s mental health, literacy and future aspirations.”
Under-23s forward Gordon added: “We know the subject of mental health is very important and it was great how much the kids got involved.
“The kids were very energetic and the teachers made it fun, too, with the games we played. We all really enjoyed it.”
Professor Andy Smith, from Edge Hill University, highlighted the complexities within the relationship between social media and mental health.
“It may be tempting to link poor mental health in young people to their increasing use of social media, but this would be wrong,” he said.
“For some young people social media can be a space in which they are able to share their mental health concerns and experiences while developing helpful knowledge about these, and for others it may be less positive.
“What is particularly important is understanding how and why young people use various forms of social media sites, what they learn from doing so, and how this can be used to support them.
“These are some of the key things we try to understand in using the Everton brand on our Tackling the Blues programme, and we are especially grateful that Anthony, Mateusz and Ryan joined Graeme to share their experiences too.”
Funded by the Premier League Charitable Fund (PLCF) and delivered in collaboration with Edge Hill University, the Tackling the Blues programme delivers weekly sport, physical activity and classroom-based sessions and engages with young people in primary schools, secondary schools and community groups.
The physical activities and peer mentoring delivered through the programme seek to increase self-esteem and reduce anxiety in children, while helping them build positive relationships with their peers and external agencies.
In England, between nine and 13 per cent of five to 15-year-olds reported having a mental health disorder with older young people reporting higher rates of mental illness. Suicide is the biggest killer of schoolchildren each year, with 200 on average taking their own lives every 12 months.
Tackling the Blues has engaged over 650 young people since its launch in 2015. The programme works with local schools and their communities every week to improve the mental health of young people through sport and education sessions, which encourage conversations about mental health and help to prevent suicide.