A Leeds Rhinos player is helping tackle stigma surrounding mental health by sharing his own experiences of depression.
Stevie Ward spoke at a launch event, which featured health and council leaders, on Tuesday in Leeds as part of the start of a new Future In Mind city-wide mental health strategy.
The launch of the new strategy comes as the YEP is urging people to help break down mental health stigma as part of our #SpeakYourMind campaign.
Stevie, who plays as a loose forward for the Rhinos, told more than 150 people at the event at Leeds Civic Hall about his personal battles with depression.
The 23-year-old struggled with mental health issues after a series of injuries in 2015 and 2016 kept him off the pitch.
He said: “As a 16 year-old I was always striving to achieve a lot. I struggled a bit when I couldn’t play due to injury.
“My identity wasn’t there anymore. I felt like I wasn’t fulfilling my potential or being who people expected me to be. The low I was feeling was inevitable.”
Despite being worried to share his issues, once doing so he said he saw a cultural shift and received support from teammates.
The launch event set out how the NHS in Leeds, and Leeds City Council, will work together to tackle mental health, social and emotional wellbeing for people under 25 over the next four years.
It is focusing on specific priorities including providing early help, a dedicated programme in schools, enhanced eating disorder service and the new £45m Springwell Academy specialist provision for children with social emotional and mental health needs.
Coun Lisa Mulherin, the council’s executive member for children and families, said: “This collaboration between Leeds City Council, the NHS and key partners has helped create a pioneering strategy which works across health, education and the social care system, to improve the social, emotional and mental health of some of the most vulnerable children in Leeds.”
GET INVOLVED WITH OUR CAMPAIGN
The Yorkshire Evening Post launched our vital #SpeakYourMind campaign to combat stigma surrounding mental health in October last year.
The campaign was started to raise awareness about issues, but to do that we need your help. You can get involved by sharing your story or experiences with mental health by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
People can also get involved on social media by using our #SpeakYourMind hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.