UCLFC: towards better mental health

UCLFC: towards better mental health

So far, UCLFC have raised over £17,500 for the Movember Foundation in memory of Louis Carr.

On November 23rd 2018, Louis Carr, a first year student and member of the UCL Men’s Football Club (UCLFC), tragically took his own life. At the start of the month, Louis had set up a fundraising page for the Movember foundation, explaining that he had been struggling with anxiety and depression for several years and hoped to help those experiencing similar issues. Since then, UCLFC have dedicated efforts to raising awareness of mental health issues in memory of Louis. Their Movember page has to date received over £17,500 in donations.

The club held a mental health week fundraiser in January, which consisted of a pub quiz and football tournament, raising over £1,000.They also hosted an evening of speakers in collaboration with the UCL Men’s Hockey Club, including Louis Allwood from the Centre for Mental Health, a charity that provides research and policy influence on mental health. Members of several UCL sports teams also shared their experiences with mental health difficulties. The president of UCLFC, Max Tyson, described his own experiences with anxiety and discussed the importance of having support from family and friends. The process of overcoming negative thoughts, he said, becomes easier when others know what you are going through.

The president of the UCL Women’s Football Club, Zura Wafir, also spoke bravely and candidly of her struggles with anxiety and grief, describing feelings of being “numb and incredibly hopeless”. However, encouraged by her friends and family members, she decided to seek help. She described how this was the best thing she had ever done, acknowledging that “opening up is hard but important”. Seem Rahman, a  member of the UCL Women’s Hockey Club, also detailed her struggles with mental illness, and stressed the importance of not comparing other peoples’ experiences with your own. Allwood reaffirmed the message conveyed by previous speakers that for those suffering, reaching out for help is crucial: if one in four are experiencing mental health difficulties,“three out of four can help others around them”. He discussed the challenges of mental illness, where symptoms often remain invisible and can be kept well hidden by those suffering.

The final speaker also read out a letter on behalf of Sam Carr, Louis’ mother. The words were powerful, reminding the audience that“sometimes you need to check on those who seem the strongest…the greatest lies we tell are the smiles that we wear.”The death of Louis and UCLFC’s initiatives highlight the urgency of taking mental health seriously. Speaking to Pi Media, Tyson said,“there is always more you can do, and what happened with Louis is an example of that”,further explaining his efforts to create the“right environment” to help those who are struggling. He also stressed the importance of having a “culture of inclusivity”, praising the work of the welfare secretary and the rest of the committee in reaching out to members, in particular first year students, to check up on their wellbeing.

UCLFC’s efforts stand as an example of how to take action in addressing and confronting mental health issues. Opening up to an audience of fellow students about strikingly personal struggles is no easy task, demanding not only strength but also a willingness to be vulnerable.But it is precisely events like these that enable honest conversation and the transparency that is so vital in the fight for mental health. Knowing that we are not alone might just be the very thing that keeps us afloat.

This article was originally published in Issue 723 of Pi Magazine.

Illustration by Ashley Broom. Photography by UCLFC.