Big Issue Vendor

Kibble tackles mental health stigma with St Mirren footballers

The charity is once again teaming up with the Paisley club to support players and staff who might be struggling as well as opening up the conversation around mental illness in sport

Children’s charity Kibble is supporting players and staff at St Mirren Football Club in an effort to end the stigma around mental health in sport.

The organisation’s team of psychologists is offering confidential telephone support as well as online one-to-one sessions for those at the Paisley club struggling with their mental wellbeing.

Kibble, which provides opportunities for young people facing adversity – including a visit to The Big Issue office in partnership with the Social Enterprise Academy earlier this year – hopes the scheme can be expanded out to professional footballers across the country to support them during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.

The charity’s chief executive, Jim Gillespie, also heads up St Mirren as director. He said: “Our number one priority throughout this pandemic has been to protect and support our staff as best we can, but it’s important to extend that support, where possible, to the players that need it.

“Our team of psychologists are hugely experienced, and we have recently seen the benefit of providing such a service when we offered residential care workers throughout the sector a Safe Space to Talk. With the additional stresses we have all faced as a result of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we emphasise the value of taking the time to talk. It’s the ambition of the club to have a successful season and supporting players and St Mirren through mental health wellbeing will go a long way to achieving that.”

The new initiative follows the successful launch of the Safe Space to Talk project, a support line introduced for Kibble staff to access the help they need. The service was also opened up to residential workers across the country who are busy supporting vulnerable people during the pandemic.

Jim Goodwin, St Mirren manager, said: “Football has long had a macho culture, and the human aspect of the game has often been overlooked, so it is vital that we make a conscious effort, especially at this time, to make sure our whole team is well looked after.

“Kibble gives us access to a range of expertise which can help us make St. Mirren the best team to work for, play for and, of course, support.”

The online and phone sessions will operate on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 10am and 6pm, plus Thursdays from 12-8pm, and weekend appointments can be arranged where needed by St Mirren players, staff or managers.

Earlier this year Kibble announced a groundbreaking partnership with the St Mirren Independent Supporters Association to become the driving force behind a fan takeover of the Paisley football club, purchasing a 27.5 per cent stake.

The plan is to create exciting new opportunities for the young people associated with Kibble in areas such as employment, training and education, whilst also increasing access to possibilities in sport, health and wellbeing.

Speaking when the partnership was announced, Gillespie said it would “help change the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people in Scotland – by allowing us to step up our young workforce development programme to provide training and job opportunities based around the club’s facilities and operations”.

Image: Kibble/St Mirren FC