As World Mental Health Day is marked across the country this week, a professional sports psychologist ran a wellbeing workshop for local, young carers. They discussed ways to cope with the day-to-day mental and emotional challenges faced in their roles at home.
The session led by Brentford FC’s psychologist, Michael Caulfield, was held at the football club’s stadium, Griffin Park, and aimed to provide support for the young carers while also raising wider awareness of the pressure and anxiety many young carers face.
It culminated in a ‘walk-and-talk’ session with the psychologist to discuss techniques to manage stress. It also highlighted the importance of simple but critical activities like exercising and having a good night’s sleep to maintain a healthy mental outlook.
The young carers are part of an ongoing project delivered by the club’s award-winning Community Sports Trust. It offers vital respite to these young people, who are all looking after a family member in a caring capacity, with 80% of young carers carrying out caring duties every day or most days of the week.
Commissioned by Ealing Council, the project provides opportunities to learn new skills and gain in confidence on a weekly basis. It includes: After-school homework clubs; lunchtime clubs; youth clubs, fortnightly swimming clubs; and day trips during the school holidays.
One of the young carers Jessica McDonald is 11 and cares for her brother. She credits the project with helping her talk more openly, and said: “It is good to meet people who are going through the same experience as you and understand what it’s like to look after someone with an illness or additional needs.
“I have started to talk more to my family about things and I think my confidence has improved.”
‘They are not alone’
One of Brentford’s most well-known players, Sergi Canos, was on-hand at the workshop to offer his own wisdom on how to manage stress.
The Spanish player said: “From being at this workshop today, I had no idea the difficulties young carers faced looking after a family member. Using my platform as a professional footballer, I hope I have given young carers a voice and reminded them they are not alone, and we are here to help them.”
The EFL (English Football League) is committed to raising awareness of mental health through its official charity partner Mind, and Brentford FC is helping to do this both on and off the football pitch.
‘Taken on far more responsibility at home than most’
Councillor Yvonne Johnson, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “Whether as family or friends, teachers or healthcare professionals, we all have a role to play in supporting young people through challenging times.
“The council is proud to be running a mental health first aid programme in our schools to help staff identify and support children struggling with their mental health.
“And I am very pleased the Young Carers project, delivered with Brentford FC’s Community Sports Trust, is providing support to these exceptional young people who, typically, have taken on far more responsibility at home than most others the same age.
“Everyone needs help sometimes and we should all feel comfortable asking for it – especially young people. Having sports professionals from the football club to reiterate this message in an accessible way to young people is so important in letting them know they are not alone.”