Football clubs transform stadiums' empty seats to read 'Where's my mate?' in plea to remind fans to check on loved ones | The Sun

EMPTY seats at football stadiums have changed as part of a campaign to remind people to check in on friends and loved ones who could be struggling.

Rotherham's AESSEAL New York Stadium and Darlington’s Blackwell Meadows Stadium are currently host to the message from men’s health charity Movember, with the North East and Yorkshire home to the highest suicide rates in the UK.

Some 55 per cent of those in the North East support a local or hometown football team, while 34 per cent of Yorkshire residents do the same, according to a study of 2,000 adults.

However, things are improving with 68 per cent of men believing it’s easier to talk about their mental wellbeing than it was 20 years ago.

The initiative forms part of the charity’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.

The charity wants to heighten awareness around male mental well-being in the lead up to World Suicide Prevention Day on 10th September after the research found an informal environment, such as at the pub, or watching a football game, is a time when men would be most comfortable checking in with a friend.


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The research found 44 per cent of men in the UK have suffered with their mental wellbeing.

However, 65 per cent would keep it to themselves if they were struggling, despite 48 per cent saying speaking to a loved one has helped when suffering with their mental health.

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.

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The campaign was set up to help people with their mental healthCredit: SWNS

“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.

“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.”

It also emerged 24 per cent claim to be good at opening up about their mental wellbeing to others.

While men are also much less likely to open up to a friend about their mental wellbeing – 30 per cent – than women, 42 per cent.

Additionally, 59 per cent of men wouldn’t know the signs to look out for were someone they knew in crisis, and 55 per cent didn’t know how to reach out and start a conversation.

Despite this, 59 per cent 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 per cent felt supported, 56 per cent felt cared about and 32 per cent felt relieved. 

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 among men aged between 20 and 34.

Psychological research suggests that dominant masculine stereotypes that prevent men from feeling like they can talk openly about their feelings play a large contributing factor.

This is particularly true amongst football fans, with the study carried out via OnePoll indicating that 48 per cent of individuals in this community have grappled with their mental well-being.

The Sport the Signs campaign 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.

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

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.

He said: “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.

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“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.

“We want to encourage people to reach out to those around them to help prevent them from reaching crisis point.”

Contact the Samaritans

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact The Samaritans on 116 123.

They are available for free at anytime.

Or email

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