Portraits of Everton players created by local children will be shown on stadium screens at the Blues’ home game against Newcastle United on Tuesday – helping to raise awareness of the importance of positive mental health among young people.
Club partner USM invited Year 4 pupils from Linacre Primary School to visit Everton’s USM Finch Farm training ground to take part in a drawing session, with their player portraits set to make a very special appearance at Goodison Park on Tuesday night.
The portraits will replace the in-match player graphics for the Premier League encounter with Newcastle on the stadium screens for the team announcement and substitutions. They will also be used in the matchday programme and, away from the ground, the images will be visible across Everton's official matchday social media and website output.
The activity is part of USM’s Unlock The Potential campaign and is in support of Everton in the Community’s award-winning Tackling the Blues programme.
Linacre Primary School is one of a number of schools participating in Tackling the Blues, which aims to teach young people strategies for good mental and physical health, promote emotional literacy and improve self-esteem and confidence. The programme has engaged with more than 850 young people aged six to 16-years-old in the past three years.
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WATCH: SCHOOL KIDS DRAW THEIR EVERTON HEROES
Delivered collaboratively by Everton in the Community and Edge Hill University, and funded by The Premier League, Tackling the Blues is co-designed and developed with young people, student mentors and education workers who act as project collaborators, help recruit participants and deliver peer mentor workshops.
Drawing portraits is just one of the ways in which participants are encouraged to explore emotions, behaviours and reactions and gain an understanding of the things we can all do to support each other.
During the drawing session, the Linacre pupils were surprised by first-team stars Fabian Delph, Theo Walcott, Seamus Coleman and Jonas Lössl - who came to sit for their portraits in person.
The players then tried their hand at their own drawings before taking part in a Q&A with the children on topics including acceptance, self-esteem, diversity and respect.
A video of the feel-good visit was shared by the Club on Blue Monday (January 20) – supposedly ‘the most depressing day of the year.’
The pupils have also been invited to the game against Newcastle to see their drawings come to life across Goodison Park.
Michael Salla, Director of Health and Sport at Everton in the Community, said: “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.
“It is fantastic to see USM showing their support for Tackling the Blues. Programmes like this are vital in providing young people with tools and strategies that they can use as they get older to maintain good mental and physical health. It is also about removing stigma around mental health and making it clear that it is important to talk about mental health at any age and to ask for help and support when you need it, and ensuring that young people know where to find that support.
"The player portraits are a great way of sharing that message, and I am sure the children will be delighted when they see their drawings on the big screen.”
Edge Hill University professor Andy Smith added: “We are delighted that the benefits of the activities which we have designed with young people who engage in the Tackling the Blues programme are being recognised in this way.
"Helping young people to understand the importance of their mental health, how and where to seek help, and to provide activities which impact their lives positively is an important part of our longstanding partnership with Everton in the Community.
“We are especially grateful to the players, USM, and everyone at the Football Club for their continued support of Tackling the Blues and our wider research on using sport for mental health promotion.”
Watch a video of Coleman, Delph, Lössl and Walcott meeting our young artists here.