As part of the EFL and Mind’s ‘Do One Thing’ mental health initiative, academy players Jon McCracken and Tony Springett have explained why they chose to become mental health ambassadors at the Lotus Training Centre, in conjunction with the Justin Fashanu Foundation.
The pair, along with Caleb Richards who’s currently on loan with Kidderminster Harriers, volunteered to support fellow players in the Canaries academy.
The ambassador roles have been created at the academy together with the Justin Fashanu Foundation. Justin Fashanu was Britain’s first one million-pound black player in a playing career that spanned over 19 years. He was also Britain’s first openly gay professional footballer but sadly took his own life in 1998 after years of discrimination over his sexuality.
In his memory, Justin’s niece Amal Fashanu founded the Justin Fashanu Foundation to campaign against homophobia and racism in football and raise awareness around mental health issues in the sport.
Springett started things off: “I haven't got any real personal experiences with mental health problems but there has been a major one [with a friend]. The way I went about it and dealt with it and the way they came out the other side, it showed me that I can change the way people think about things.
“I might not be able to help everyone but the more people I can help, the better. Saving one person’s mind is better than saving none.”
McCracken says he was inspired to volunteer following previous experiences: “I chose to do it because I’m one of the oldest players in the Under-23s this year, so I’d like to think that I’m an approachable enough person.
“If people are struggling and they don’t want to speak to a member of staff, I’d like to think I’m one of the players who people want to come and have a chat with.
“I’ve had family experiences as well, I lost my dad when I was younger through suicide. On a personal note, I want to help people and want to help people through things. The more you talk about things, the easier it is to deal with things.”
Head of player care at the club, Clive Cook, believes the roles are important for young players to not fear about speaking out.
“The club have wanted to build a link with Amal Fashanu. Her work with homophobia and mental health started to take off and it made sense to link up.
“We wanted to bring in mental health ambassadors at the academy and Tony, Jon and Caleb [Richards] who’s out on loan put their names forward.
“I think it means a lot more when a one of these players sits down with another player and offers advice.”