As Mental Health Awareness Week continues to create conversation around the importance of breaking down the stigma, we’re taking a look at our very own Justin Fashanu Mental Health Ambassadors.
First created in July 2020, the title of the role is in tribute to former Norwich City player and football’s first openly gay footballer, Justin Fashanu. The Academy work closely with his niece, Amal Fashanu, who runs a foundation in his name to raise awareness on mental health, racism and homophobia in the sport.
The roles were first implemented to give fellow teammates another option in who they could talk to about any issues that may arise. Currently, there are three ambassadors in the academy: Under-23s winger Tony Springett, U23s goalkeeper Jon McCracken and U18s right-back Solomon Alidor-Hamilton.
Speaking back in March on the impact having mental health ambassadors around the U18s and U23s has had, Springett said the players feel safer to discuss any issues they might be having.
“I just feel like as a collective team it’s become more of a safe environment now because as young adults, I don’t think we’re as confident to speak out about our feelings as much to the adults. I’m a really upbeat person, I’m happy most of the time, but everyone has downtime and negative thoughts, and I don’t mind speaking out about it.
“I want everyone else to be like that because I think it’s really helpful to speak to Clive [Cook, head of player care] or my parents about it. I think if it works for me, I should do everything I can to make it help for everyone else.”
Discussing his time in the role, the U23s ‘keeper says that developing as an ambassador off the pitch has helped improved him as a person as he takes time to talk to his teammates about their mental health.
“Dealing with situations that aren’t just football, it’s not like you’re in for training then back home and switch off, it’s not a job like that where you can switch off.
“You always develop on the pitch but off the pitch it’s just as important to develop. Dealing with different situations and circumstances that people speak to you about can only make you a better person.”
New to the role, Alidor-Hamilton hasn’t spent long as an ambassador, but was eager to get involved and start helping others where he can when the space opened up after dealing with his own experiences.
“The things that have happened to me personally this season drove me to make this decision. I think it’s a good thing to help others with their mental health issues coming from a place where I’ve gone through it.
“My experience can help people that are going through the hard times, I think I can help make them feel alright and be their support.”