Launch of Thanet CALM Football Club in memory of Broadstairs man Gabriel Farmer

The club will meet weekly on Margate Main Sands

A football club aimed at tackling the stigma around mental health issues and raising awareness of suicide will kick of in Margate from August 9.

Sports Connect is bringing The 12th Man CALM Football Club to Margate Main Sands in memory of Broadstairs man Gabriel Farmer.

Gabriel lost his life to suicide on May 14, aged just 23. His mum Louise Knight had fought to get him help for depression and anxiety but struggled to access to professional services.

Gabriel Farmer

Louise is now setting up the Angel Gabriel Charity/Forever 23, determined to help others and make sure no family has to endure the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.

The charity aim is to help people to pay for private healthcare and therapy so they are able to access the support they need immediately and not have to wait weeks or months for an appointment.

The 12th Man CALM club is being supported by Active Thanet, 12th Man, CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably – Kent FA, Postcode Society Trust, VRU Kent and Medway and Sea Shed Margate, which is  giving CALM participants a 20% discount on drinks following the session.

The programme is open to men aged 18 and over and will be taking place weekly, every Wednesday, from August 9 between 6pm – 7:30pm on the main sands near the tidal pool.

Sports Connect will also be providing free beach sports for young people aged between 11 – 19 years beforehand from 4pm – 5:30pm.

‘Tackling the stigma’

A Sports Connect spokesperson said: “We recognise that using football to share responsibility in tackling the stigma around mental health issues and raise awareness of suicide can help. Our 12th Man CALM Football Club brings together people who love the beautiful game and is for any level of fitness – everyone is welcome.

“ It’s about positivity; generosity and reinforcement on and off the pitch. We use the power of the game to help get everyone talking whilst supporting one another’s mental wellbeing. We already facilitate CALM Club in Herne Bay providing men access a free, social kick around. The sessions now have over 40 members focusing on raising their awareness of their mindset.”

Thanet suffers the highest suicide rates in Kent and the second highest rate in the entire Southeast. The district recorded 53 deaths from suicide between 2019-2021 with male rates more than double that of female (at 38 deaths compared to 15).

Exercise for wellbeing

The Mental Health Foundation says studies show exercise can be as effective as medication or psychotherapy. It can improve mood; decrease depression/anxiety; increase self-esteem and lead to a better and more balanced lifestyle. Participation can aid recovery, manage symptoms and dramatically improve quality of life.

Making friends, working, and keeping fit are all normal parts of everyday life, but the stigma surrounding mental illness makes these things harder. Football can help break this isolation and provide social inclusion in everyday life and communities.  By becoming part of a team, sharing a pitch and working together, it allows people to normalise their feelings by knowing they are not alone and allows them to build valuable connections with others.

Bring people together

The Sports Connect spokesperson added: “Mental illness is still one of the most stigmatised issues within our communities. By providing a safe environment, with qualified coaches, peer support, as well as qualified Mental Health First Aiders, we can break down the stigma, create opportunities for conversation and bring people together.”

Sports Connect is a sport-for-all organisation that delivers fun and interactive sports, health and education programmes for communities; The organisation is a registered NCFE and 1st4 Sport Approved Centre, and a Kent FA Licensed Football Provider.

Ask for help

  • Call Kent and Medway’s Single Point of Access on 0300 222 0123 (24/7) or text 07860 022819 (8am-10pm)
  • Or call the Mental Health Matters team on 0800 107 0160. Free, confidential and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • Thanet Safe Haven on 07850 655877 6pm – 11pm 365 days or email [email protected]. If your usual sources of support are closed Safe Haven in Thanet offers mental health support to Kent residents aged 16+, including healthcare professionals.
  • East Kent Mind 0795 060 8827 or visit their website
  • Wellbeing line 0203 912 0032 is open Monday – Friday 2pm-5pm and Sunday 6pm-10pm
  • SpeakUp CIC peer support in Margate Email: [email protected]