The Match of the Day cameras were focused on Wolves for matters off the pitch at Molineux last December, as the club’s Foundation’s Head 4 Health initiative received nationwide coverage.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re looking back at how the programme has improved the mental and physical wellbeing of men from across Wolverhampton and the Black Country.
During December, the BBC paid a visit to the club to see how the programme has helped tackled men’s mental health issues among the local community, while John Ruddy and Ryan Bennett dropped by and opened up about their own mental wellbeing.
Talking about the scheme, Rachel Smith, health and wellbeing manager at Wolves Foundation, said: “Head 4 Health is a six-week programme for me over the age of 18 to come and improve their mental wellbeing.
“We do this through a mixture of workshops and physical activity sessions, and at the end of the six weeks there are informal drop-ins where they can come and chat in a safe environment.
“A lot of the people that are coming along to our sessions are Wolves fans and for them to get the opportunity to meet the players in the first place is great, but to also have that conversation with them, as the lads we’ve had in the past have been quite open about talking about their struggles of coping with mental health at times, so it’s brilliant to have their involvement.”
The video, which is available to watch on the BBC Sport website by clicking here, also includes interviews with the players, as well as the programme’s participants, including Dave Monckton.
“It helps me forget about my problems, and I’ve learned coping strategies,” Dave said. “Because I’m visually impaired, I struggle a lot, so I’ve had a good response with them encouraging me to take part in everything. It’s done me the world of good.”
Another participant, Dean Vitellozzi, who represented Wolves Foundation in London earlier this year as he joined HRH The Duke of Cambridge in launching the national Heads Up Weekend, added: “It’s great because it helps avoid isolation and it helps people talk about their experiences and what they’re going through.
“Understanding what other people have gone through can also help bring your problems into perspective.
“A lot of people who suffer, don’t want to come out of the house or are frightened of mixing, so there’s the added benefit of coming to somewhere which is close to your heart.”
While Ruddy said: “We have problems as well. We have things going on in our lives, but we’re in a very privileged position and if we can give a little bit back to the community and try and do as much as we can, it makes us feel great and the guys feel better as well.
“Mental health is not really something people feel brave enough to speak about, so overcoming that initial fear, and understanding that people are willing to help is massive.”
With the Covid-19 epidemic putting the Head 4 Health sessions on hold, Wolves have launched an online ‘extra-time’ programme, with more information found here.