By Steve Lloyd
As mental health awareness week comes to an end it can be a time for reflection and it got me thinking.What is a football club, how can it be something so important in people’s lives? I have been watching Wrexham for over 45 years now, often through thin and thinner and we have been through a lot together over the years. I’ve experienced the highs and lows of football where we have won promotions and cup finals at Wembley and Cardiff but also suffered relegations and cup final defeats at Wembley and Cardiff. The Football Club holds a special place in my heart because it has been there for me through the bad times in my life and I felt it was about time to put the story into words.
I first visited the Racecourse Ground in April 1976 where we beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0, I can’t remember a thing about it but my dad assured me I was shouting and singing ‘Wrexham, Wrexham’ even at that early age. Little did I know as a five year old what lay ahead of me in life but the early years watching Wrexham made unbelievable memories of promotion to the old Division 2, brilliant giant-killing cup ties and European nights.
There were some bleak days in a footballing sense to follow in the '80s and '90s although there was the odd success and excitement along the way. I remember crowds being in the 900s for some games and an Andy Preece screamer against Mansfield in the LDV trophy with just over 600 of us there watching. There was also a promotion, European success against FC Porto, a Welsh Cup win in Cardiff and some exciting football in the mid to late '90s.
I was becoming older, a family had come along and work could be stressful at times which eventually led to me suffering with depression and anxiety. There were dark days, distressing thoughts but a combination of family support and Wrexham AFC got me through. My anxiety had become so bad I struggled to leave the house, the only place I could go to was the Racecourse. I often reflect why I was able to attend games and I think it was the familiarity and the sense of belonging I felt when I was there, almost as if I was with family.
The games at the time didn’t matter, it was just the fact I was leaving the house and getting out and seeing people. The club has had its dark days itself in more recent years and on bond day I was lucky enough to be in a position where I was able to make a significant contribution to keep the club alive, just as it had helped me do the same. The deeds to my house lay in the club's safe to be used as a bridging loan should it be required and to allow the club to continue playing football. I don’t want any thanks for doing what I did, it was done to ensure the club could do the same for many others as it did for me in the years ahead.
The club will never know how it helped me and how it has continued to help me with my mental health. I am much better now although I still have dark days which thankfully I am able to manage better now than I was when I first faced mental health challenges. I am lucky to have insight into my triggers and I pick up on my early warning signs and can put plans into place to assist myself get through the days and weeks where I’m struggling. What I found to help me was talking and sharing how I was feeling with those around me.
Everyone connected at the club is a human being and could struggle with their mental health at any point, nobody is immune whether our co-chairmen, players, staff or supporters. Raising awareness about mental health is something I am passionate about and would encourage anybody who is struggling with their mental health to reach out and seek support. Sadly, there is a stigma around mental health where it can be perceived as a weakness which requires challenging. Seeking help is the exact opposite, it is a strength, you want to change how you feel. Discussing our mental health and the challenges we face should be more accepted just as we speak about our physical health.
Whether talking to a friend or seeking professional help, starting with a GP appointment, please do not suffer in silence. Reach out, you’ll be surprised just how much people are willing to listen. Most importantly, be kind to yourself, remember just how special you are and always, always remember you are most definitely worth being cared for.
To end Mental Health Awareness Week, Dragon Chat will be holding a mindful walk on Sunday May 16, at Moss Valley Country Park, starting at 10am.
The route starts from the fishing lake and is approximately two miles in distance, including one steady incline. During the walk participants will be encouraged to connect and listen to the nature around them and also their own body movement.
All participants will take part at their own risk and current Welsh Government guidelines will be followed throughout the walk.
* In cases of emergency where risk is imminent call 999.
* If any person has taken an overdose they need to be taken to the nearest District General Hospital immediately for treatment, (if required).
* If a person has self-harm and the injury requires medical treatment go to the appropriate medical setting (G.P, Minor Injury Unit or Accident &Emergency Department) depending on the injury.
* If a person expresses suicidal thoughts and goes missing, call the Police on 999 or 101 and report what has happened. Make sure you tell the Police about any previous overdoses, suicidal ideation or destructive behaviour that has caused injuries.
* C.A.L.L helpline 0800 132 737