A Lincolnshire man has opened up about his struggles with mental health and is now pioneering a new charity to get male football fans to understand the illness more clearly.
Tim Stoodley, 28, was diagnosed with bi-polar and personality disorder four years ago.
Mr Stoodley, who is a dad to five-year-old Phoebe, says at first he did not feel he had the male support or confidence to go public over his illness.
But after overcoming a recent relapse, he has now launched MindKicks , which aims to partner with professional football clubs to get mental health talked about more frequently and openly.
A number of teams, including an unnamed Premier League side have already confirmed their interest in the project – and Mr Stoodley is hopeful many more will follow suit.
Portsmouth, Sheffield Wednesday, Colchester, Stevenage, Hibernian, Mansfield Town have all expressed an interest.
The dad of one is a big football fan – but says men are reluctant to talk about mental health issues, as is the world of football more generally.
His campaign comes just months after former England winger Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act over concerns about his welfare.
Jake Livermore also spoke movingly about mental health issues after the death of his baby boy led him into a cocaine-fuelled spiral of depression.
Speaking about the time when he was first diagnosed, Mr Stoodley said: “I was feeling depressed and anxious and knew things weren’t how they should be.
“I now know it was the bipolar rearing itself, which is quite scary.
“At the time I remember thinking there was little support. I felt I was being too emotional about something not a lot of men had really made a lot of noises about.
“It took me a long time to realise that it was actually an illness and just something wrong with me.
“From my experience it is often women who comment on my blogs about my situation and rarely men.
“I now want to show to men that if they do show signs of mental health illness then they shouldn’t be daft and blame themselves.”
The Peterborough United supporter from Bourne admits the impact of mental health needs to be discussed more openly, particularly how it can affect an individual’s loved ones.
“My daughter, who is only five, has already seen me on a life-support machine because of an overdose and has seen me in a number of psychiatric hospitals,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without her. She is my motivation. I want to make her proud. It’s a cliché but I wouldn’t be here today without her.
“There are times where I feel guilty and think I am not the person she needs but I am realising that is the illness talking.
“It is a bad situation and will continue to be – it’s not going to go away, there is no cure. I just want to use that experience and make it relatable in order to make something good about.”
While recently undergoing treatment in psychiatric unit in Lincoln, Mr Stoodley had a lot of time to think, and says that helped form the basis of a plan that has long been in the pipeline.
Mr Stoodley, who has now completed treatment, said: “When I was receiving treatment, I had a lot of time to think and thought now would be a good idea to kick-start an idea I have had for a while.
“I am a typical bloke who likes his football and likes to have a few pints on the weekend – it’s just I suffer from mental health.
“I thought that with my experience that it was important to make sure other men have a platform to talk about their issues, particularly with mental health.
“I combined my passion for football and my battle with mental health and thought how football fans, particularly males, are not open about their mental health.
“When I got out I started looking and was amazed that there isn’t really anything being done regarding men and mental health so far in football.
“I have co-founded Mind Kicks, which aims to raise awareness of mental health in men within football.”
The charity – founded by Mr Stoodley and three others – aims to get professional clubs on board and so far conversations have begun with 105 professional clubs across England and Scotland with an eye to rolling out promotion of the charity and its work as soon as possible.
Part of this will include attending games and handing out leaflets as well as well as getting footballers who have experienced something similar themselves to openly talk about.
“The response has been positive so far,” he said. “There has been a 12% uptake of clubs wanting to get on board.
“A few clubs have offered programme space and we will be featured by Sheffield Wednesday for their next home game.
“A few players have also agreed in principle.
“I am really optimistic about this and feel we really can make a difference.
“If people can relate to me and my experience, I hope it can have a positive impact on raising the importance of getting men talking about mental health.”