A full football stadium with a big banner saying 'where's my mate?'
Sport the Signs, where's my mate?Image by: Movember
A full football stadium with a big banner saying 'where's my mate?'
15 September 2023

Sport the Signs

5 minutes read time

Movember turns empty season ticket seats into a powerful message for World Suicide Prevention Day, as research reveals over 59% of men don’t know how to spot the main signs of depression.

On September 6th 2023, Movember turned empty season ticket seats at Rotherham United F.C. in Yorkshire and Darlington F.C. in the North East, into the poignant message: ‘Where’s My Mate?’.

Suicide rates and footie fans

The clubs are located in the two areas with the highest male suicide rates in the UK (North East and Yorkshire).

The North East is also the region where support of local football teams is the highest in the UK, while over a third (34%) of Yorkshire residents are also supporters of their local or hometown team.

Sport the Signs

The initiative forms part of Movember's ‘Sport the Signs’ campaign, which aims to educate men on how to spot initial signs that could warrant a supportive check-in, such as when that mate who never misses a football game, misses a game.

Pitch side stand

Movember made the stand to heighten awareness around male mental wellbeing in the lead up to World Suicide Prevention Day, after research revealed that an informal environment, such as at the pub, or watching a football game, is a time when most men said they’d be most comfortable checking in with a friend.

Men's mental wellbeing challenges

Just under half (44%) of men in the UK have suffered with their mental wellbeing, but two thirds (65%) of UK males would keep it to themselves if they were struggling despite 48% saying speaking to a loved one has helped when suffering with their mental health.

Struggles with opening up

Fewer than one in four (24%) men in the UK claim to be good at opening up about their mental wellbeing to others. Men are also much less likely to open up to a friend about their mental wellbeing than women – 42% of women claim they’d open up to a close friend about their mental wellbeing, versus just 30% of men.

Lack of awareness and support

Additionally, over half (59%) of men wouldn’t know the signs to look out for were someone they knew in crisis, and 55% didn’t know how to reach out and start a conversation. Despite this, 59% of UK males said they would be most likely to open up face-to-face about their mental health as when people have reached out to them in the past, 57% of UK men felt supported, 56% felt cared about and 32% felt relieved.

Alarming suicide statistics

According to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), in the UK, three out of four suicides are men, and it remains the leading cause of death amongst men aged between 20 and 34. Psychological research suggests that dominant masculine stereotypes that prevent men feeling like they can't talk openly about their feelings play a large contributing factor to this.

Football fans' mental wellbeing

This is particularly true amongst football fans, with the charity’s research indicating that almost half (48%) of individuals in this community have grappled with their mental well-being.

Promoting awareness and support

Through the 'Sport the Signs’ campaign, Movember is aiming to spread awareness of the key signs that can indicate that a male friend may be in need and encourage men that if they spot a mate whose behaviour is out of character – don't ignore it, reach out.

Equipping people with skills

To equip people with the skills needed to have open and honest conversations with friends, the charity has created key resources such as ‘Spot the Signs' to reveal the key, but often missed, signals that could indicate someone is struggling.

Recognising signs

According to Movember, signs that ‘a bro could be feeling low’, include:

  • A normally laid-back friend appears a bit on edge
  • The usual ‘group chat king’ has gone quiet
  • A football-loving or sporty friend missed a game or session
  • The sociable, party-loving friend goes quiet and no longer wants to do anything

The ALEC technique

As well as these key signs, there is also a technique called ALEC (Ask, Listen, Encourage Action, Check-In) to help equip people to reach out to loved-ones.

What we think

Dr. Zac Seidler, Global Director of Men’s Health Research from Movember said:

“We believe that every football fan holds the potential to make a difference in someone's life. With our 'Sport the Signs' campaign, we're turning Rotherham United and Darlington F.C.’s stadiums into platforms of hope for World Suicide Prevention Day.Through ‘filling’ these empty seats with such a poignant message, we want to remind people that noticing the signs, reaching out and supporting one another can truly save lives.

“As the UK’s leading men’s health charity, the only goal we truly care about is to stop men dying too young, and through this landmark collaboration, we hope to equip men with the knowledge, confidence, and tools that could save another man’s life.”

Howard Webb, former Premier League and FIFA referee, representative at Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) and Rotherham local is also part of the campaign:

“One of the reasons we all love the game that is football is the sense of camaraderie and community it offers – whether that’s supporting a team from home or coming along and watching alongside your mates. People are often surprised when they realise that the people they see the most are those who sit or stand around them at a football game. Together with Movember we want to encourage people to reach out to those around them to help prevent them from reaching crisis point.”

The tools

For more information on Movember’s Sport the Signs campaign and access to support tools on checking in with friends, please visit their website.