Wigan St Patricks Lead the way with Mental Health & Wellbeing Provision

Saturday 9th September was a flagship day for Mental Health and Wellbeing provision in the borough and the sport of Rugby League.

Following on from the 7th July launch, Wigan St Patricks A.R.L.F.C. – National Conference League high fliers – working in partnership with the Willow Project, Wigan Safeguarding and Children Board and Wigan Warriors ran the first workshops of a series of Mental Health and Wellbeing Programme for players, coaches and parents to tackle this agenda.

The Willow Project is a charity that provides counselling for young people aged 6 to 19 living in the Wigan borough. They also offer counselling to parents and carers of the young people that access the Willow Project. Counselling takes place at their base in Atherton and at other locations in the borough. Willow relies on donations and funding to provide their free counselling service, without which some of our most vulnerable young people would be left without any support.

Through a successful funding bid with Wigan Council’s ‘The Deal’, Willow Project have been able to launch their Talk and Listen Campaign (TLC) to get young people talking about Mental Health, by making them more aware and comfortable around the subject. Various workshops will be delivered to achieve this over the next 12 months.

Karen Little, Project Manager of the Willow Project speaking after the first set of workshops were delivered on Saturday, said “After months of hard work by everyone involved, it’s been fantastic to get to this point and start to deliver the workshops. Wigan St. Pats are doing a great job in leading the way and the support and backing from key stakeholders has made this blueprint for mental health and wellbeing happen. Saturday’s workshops were a huge success and the boys were a credit to St.Pats. We’re delighted with our partnership with Wigan St Patricks and Anthony Atherton’s hard work to drive the project forward.”

Via the Safeguarding and Children Board, Rick Bolton (Business Manager) added, “Following a couple of meetings and the launch night with Wigan St Patricks, we are delighted to see the programme come to life. We knew we needed to work together and work hard and Saturday just shows how valuable the hard work can be for the borough. The sports clubs are a great network where health and support is available for young people. Growing that provision to now include Mental Health serves for a healthier borough both mentally and physically. This project will continue to lead the way in helping young people to have conversations about mental health and wellbeing, and access support, wherever they feel comfortable”

Sadly through a series of suicides at the Club, I’ve always asked myself ‘What if more help was available? And what would could we do?’ What a great day we had on Saturday. It was the second step on our journey to answer my question that provides a more holistic support network for our players, coaches and parents. We’ve now got ourselves to a position to provide a broader network of support that is more aware of what help looks like and how we can all play our part. More support for more players in our sport and in our town are so important. Playing a part in improving the Mental Health and Wellbeing has been a great honour! I looking forward to following on conversations with Wigan St Judes and Leigh East about helping them to set projects up for their players, coaches and parents. – Anthony Atherton

Any community club, in any sport is more than welcome to contact Anthony Atherton to discuss the project and put a provision in place.

The project for Wigan St Patricks will see series of workshops delivered throughout September to players, with coaches and parents provisions to take place in early 2018. The Willow Project will help to align the understanding of mental health and wellbeing and create a borough-wide network that are much more comfortable with the topic and be open and willing so speak more about it with each other.

On hearing of the project, Steve McCormack, Player Welfare Manager, Wigan Warriors said, “It was great to see the players, coaches and parents form Wigan St Patricks on Saturday morning. We’ll be looking to support all of our community clubs to work on the project as we value its importance. We’ll be opening our doors to provide as much help and guidance as we can and would love to see more clubs working on this agenda, Ant and St Pats are certainly leading the way! We’ve a proud tradition in Wigan of setting high standards on the field. This an opportunity for us to lead the way off the field as well.”

The blueprint for this project has been around 6 months in working and with support via Emma Goldsmith at the Offload Project and Colette Eden, Safeguarding Manager at the Rugby Football League. Wigan St Patricks have left no stone unturned. Sharing information on mental health and wellbeing is so important. Using this network to improve provision is a big step forward for the town.

Donations for the Willow Project are gratefully received and should be sent by cheque made payable to Willow Project and posted to Slater House, Bolton Rd. Atherton M46 9JY or by following this link everyclick.com/willowproject