After Gauthier Ganaye’s heart-warming letter to a supporter suffering from mental health problems, the Barnsley Chief Executive has spoken of the importance of reaching out to anyone who potentially needs help to talk.
His touching correspondence back in August went viral after recipient, Chris Ryder, posted it on social media with the phrase: ‘Best football club in the world’, prompting influential figures across the globe to Retweet.
Within a few hours, the letter was trending and, more importantly, the issue of mental health was being discussed and awareness raised.
“I didn’t expect this kind of reaction from the letter because we are doing similar gestures on a weekly basis,” admitted Ganaye. “It’s just because, when he took it to social media, it went viral and we didn’t expect that.
“We always try to monitor what is happening on social media and find some way to engage with our fans, so during our meeting we realised that one of our fans was going through a tough time. We thought: ‘what can we do to help him?’ and we came up with the idea of a simple letter.
“I was at the EFL Conference in Portugal a few months before where the partnership with Mind Charity was presented, and we know we have a good opportunity and platform to link with Mind and try to push them forward a little bit.”
Today is World Mental Health Day, which was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health.
The theme this year is ‘young people and mental health in a changing world’, but this is an issue that effects people regardless of their age, and Ganaye believes it is important to continue to discuss the social stigma.
“I was quite surprised to realise how big it was; one in four people will experience mental health problems,” continued Ganaye. “It’s still a little bit taboo, so if a football club who are massive in terms of media could help to raise awareness then it’s fantastic, and it’s fantastic that the EFL decided to partner with such a good charity.
“I’m sure everyone knows someone who has problems; I know some people – it’s everyone’s problem. Anything we could do – it was just five minutes of our time to tell him that we were here to support him. It took just five minutes and then Chris took it to social media and then he managed to raise awareness for the problem and Mind Charity.
“We’re a community club, so anything we can do to help our community, we do it; we have lots of projects to do that. Since the EFL partnership with Mind, we’re also partnering with the local branch of Mind, and Reds in the Community, our charity, are also looking to raise awareness through a football tournament for people with mental health problems. Anything we can do to engage and help our community we will do it.”
Barnsley Football Club is working in partnership with the local branch of Mind Charity, as well as the national initiative. If you are suffering, or know someone who may be, from mental health, please visit Rotherham and Barnsley Mind or the official Mind website.