Footballer’s shirt design to boost mental health

A FOOTBALLER helped design a player’s shirt that raises awareness of mental health issues.

Joe Hales, 27, who plays for Caversham United, wanted to do something positive after suffering depression during the coronavirus pandemic and attempting to take his own life.

The striker said he hoped the limited edition club shirt would get people talking about men’s mental health.

Mr Hales, of Kidmore End Road, Emmer Green, said: “I am really pleased with how it has turned out.

“It has been a real labor of love and so much work has gone into the detail and fabric, giving it that shiny retro feel. It was so worth all the effort.

“I really hope that getting the word out, especially using a personal story, will get people talking.

“It’s something that I am so proud of. We are all just a bunch of lads playing football but if there is something we can do to help, then we’ll do it.”

Mr Hales, who works as a menswear buyer, has lived in Emmer Green since he was eight and started playing for Caversham United four years ago.

He began to struggle with his mental health during the pandemic and attempted suicide in July 2020.

“I was not in a great space mentally,” said Mr Hales. “I was struggling with various things, including work and the pandemic. This ultimately resulted in an attempt on my own life.

“From then, my perspective on mental health changed massively. Something like this makes you realize what is important.

“I’ve started to focus a lot less on things that used to worry me and one of the ways I did that is through football. It is such a good release and a really good way to get away from internal struggles.

“Given my situation, I wanted to do something for mental health. It is something that spreads awareness and gets people talking as well as changing judgements.”

Mr Hales and other members of the club presented mood boards with their designs.

The chosen design takes inspiration from classic Italian football shirts and features a drawing of a goat as the club’s nickname is “The Billy Goats”.

The club partnered with the Phantom Brewing Company in Reading and the mental health charity Sport in Mind, whose logos are both featured.

All profits from shirt sales will be donated to Sport in Mind, which uses sport to change the lives of children and adults. The club has already sold more than 50 shirts.

Caversham United have raised about £10,000 for charitable causes over the last few years. A football tournament in 2019 raised more than £2,000 for Balls to Cancer, a charity raising awareness of male cancer.

Chairman Paul Gutteridge said: “It is in the nature of the club to be charitable. We have quite a good platform, especially with our social media and everything, so we always try to use our influence. Whether it be cancer or mental health, we want to make a difference.”

He praised Mr Hales, saying: “Joe was really a driving force behind this whole thing and I think it adds so much to the shirt that it draws on his story.

“I didn’t know about Joe’s suicide attempt until late last year when he felt comfortable telling us about it after he had gone through recovery and therapy. It really hit home. I had only seen him a week before it and he seemed fine.

“I think it just showed me that these issues can affect anybody and that it doesn’t always show.”

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