TV and radio host Roman Kemp gives moving mental health advice to students

Radio and TV host Roman Kemp
Radio and TV host Roman Kemp

Television and radio star Roman Kemp gave a moving account of his own experiences of battling with mental health during a special event hosted by Edge Hill University. 

Roman gave a candid first-hand account of his mental health journey and reflected on the devastating loss of his radio producer best friend Joe Lyons to suicide in August last year, an experience which inspired him to pursue his emotional BBC documentary Our Silent Emergency

The documentary moved millions of viewers to tears across the UK when it aired earlier this year as it explored the mental health and suicide crisis gripping young men across the UK. 

Roman said: “I lost my best friend, my brother, my colleague…the happiest person I knew to suicide and it’s the most horrible thing that I’ve ever been through in my life. The realisation that you will never see your friend ever again and that you never understood the hurt that they had in their life is far worse than having a conversation with your friend and annoying them by repeatedly asking whether or not they are OK. 

“I set out to make the documentary to show that suicide isn’t something that is a problem for men having a ‘midlife crisis’, unfortunately it’s getting younger and younger. I wanted to figure out for myself what happened to my friend.  

“Since the age of 15 years old when I was diagnosed with clinical depression…there’s been moments where I’ve been at the lowest possible point. I have the most privileged life you can imagine, I have nothing seemingly wrong with my life, but I still got to a point where my life was not worth living. I felt like I should not be here anymore, and I felt like I wanted everything to stop.  

“Everyone has this idea that celebrities don’t suffer and if the influential people we see on  Instagram are talking about big subjects such as this, it can make a big difference. Anyone with that type of platform, I’d implore them to do the same.” 

Roman is now a patron of the mental health charity Joe’s Buddy Line, which was set up in legacy of his friend Joe. The charity aims to provide emotional and mental health support for school children across England and Wales. 

He joined a line-up of mental health experts for an open and honest conversation about mental health, including Andy Smith, a Professor of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill. 

Prof Smith has been at the forefront of ground-breaking research in sport, education and mental health including the award-winning mental health programme Tackling the Blues delivered in partnership between Edge Hill University, Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool to promote young people’s mental health in education through sports, physical activity and the arts. 

He said: “Over half of all symptoms of mental illness, excluding dementia, are first experienced by the age of 14. So, it’s really important that we begin to tackle mental health and mental illness among children and young people in schools, in our communities, universities and colleges. 

“At a simple level, mental health is everyone’s responsibility and if we take that responsibility serious it will benefit not only ourselves but everyone…and hopefully we will find ourselves in a much better position than we do now.”  

Prof Smith’s expertise has also been central to the work of the Rugby League Cares Offload programme, which resulted in 78% of men reporting feeling more aware of how to look after their health and wellbeing. 

Prof Andy Smith

Former offload participant Kev Smith had battled mental health and depression for a number of years. Joining the Rugby League Cares acclaimed men’s mental fitness project allowed him to learn from current and former players the techniques they use to be able to manage his own mental and physical fitness.  

Kev said: “The hardest part was taking that first step through the door. After that, you can take your mask off and be who you really are in front of the people in that room. In there you’re not alone, there are other people there who have been through the same problems. As a man, it’s hard having to explain to people what you’re going through and to admit you have a problem. Thanks to the Offload programme I’m now 10 years sober and have got a family of my own with my wife and children. I’ve got something to live for.” 

Other panellists included Olivia Izzo, an Edge Hill student mentor on the Tackling the Blues programme who is encouraging children and young people to open up about their mental health through the arts and sport; and sportspeople who have battled with their own mental health. 

Chairing the event was Mike Salla, Director of Health and Sport at Everton in the Community, the official charity of Everton Football Club. Mike oversees a broad range of mental health specific projects and is leading on the development of The People’s Place; a purpose-built mental health hub adjacent to Goodison Park. 

Edge Hill University’s Wellbeing Team is available to support students with their health and wellbeing needs throughout their time at Edge Hill. Members of staff are encouraged to contact the Wellbeing Support Service, who are available to provide wellbeing support during the pandemic, at [email protected]. 

Campus Support are always available out of hours to provide help while on campus and can be reached on 01695 584227. 

The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 (free from any phone) or you can email [email protected]. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

Empowering students to become mental health champions

A team of student mentors from Edge Hill University have shared their personal experiences of training to become mental health champions for award-winning programme Tackling the Blues. 

The mentors have completed a major programme of training to boost their mental health literacy and enhance their employability skills since joining Tackling the Blues. The programme is a sport and arts-based education programme developed in partnership between Edge Hill University, Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool. 

To date, Tackling the Blues has supported over 400 Edge Hill students to complete Chasing the Stigma’s Ambassador of Hope training. This training focusses on how to talk about mental health and illness, how to effectively find help and signpost using the Hub of Hope and what to do in a mental health emergency. 

Additional training sessions have seen mentors become certified Youth Mental Health First Aid Champions, as well as complete social and emotional courses in Psychological First Aid: Supporting Children and Young People,  Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) early Trauma online learning and Zero Suicide Alliance

The knowledge and skills gained through  mental health training were implemented by Tackling the Blues mentors during University Mental Health Day on 4th March 2021. The mentors designed and delivered a student peer-to-peer event including a host of creative and interactive workshops addressing current issues in mental health and wellbeing. 

From enhancing their delivery of Tackling the Blues programme to children and young people across the North West, to boosting their employability, skills and confidence, the mentors reflect on how the training has helped them. 

Christopher Siu

Christopher Siu, 20, a Sports Coaching & Development student, said: “The Tackling the Blues training programme has definitely opened up new insights on mental health and improved my literacy around the subject. I believe I am now more confident in presenting myself and the skills I have acquired to potential employers. The training I’ve received influenced the way I delivered my part during the University Mental Health Day event because, at the time, I was very nervous and afraid of speaking about my personal experience with mental health and not knowing if I was using the correct terminology. However, since undergoing the training, I was able to efficiently deliver my part with confidence.”

Elise Rendell

Elise Rendell, 22, an MSc student in Sport, Physical Activity & Mental Health, said: “Having seen a few of my friends struggle with their mental health and having struggled living on my own while at university, I’ve wanted to help people through that difficult time. After I started my Masters at Edge Hill, I was given the option to apply for Tackling the Blues and I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to try and help younger children to be more aware of their feelings and their mental health. I feel that the Tackling the Blues accredited training has given a massive boost for my employability as it’s given me exposure to working with children and young people, as well as having the experience of planning and delivering the sessions myself.” 

Molly Harrison

Molly Harrison, 21, an MSc student in Sport, Physical Activity & Mental Health, said: “During the University Mental Health Day event, we focused on teaching the students a range of coping mechanisms to help them deal with their mental health and the wellbeing of others while at university. We also wanted to raise awareness of mental health in general and some of the misconceptions around it. We were able to pass on the learnings from our own training to the students to help boost their mental literacy. Personally, the training has improved my skills as a Tackling the Blues mentor, and I enjoy being able to help other people open up about how they’re feeling and empowering them with the tools to understand and articulate it.” 

Taigh Wilson

Taigh Wilson, 21, a Sports Management & Coaching student, said: “The amount of training we have received has really developed my knowledge of mental health. It’s taught me how to talk about the issue appropriately and help others to understand the importance of emotional literacy. On a personal level, my presentation and communication skills have improved a lot through the programme, and I’ve noticed a big boost in my confidence levels too. Tackling the Blues has opened my eyes to pursuing a career in community sport, which I wouldn’t have realised if it wasn’t for the experiences that I’ve had access to through the programme.” 

Charlotte Hall

Charlotte Hall, 20, a Sports and Exercise Science student, said: “The training helped to inform my approach and delivery of my role as a Tackling the Blues mentor at a special educational needs (SEN) school. We have received certificates for all of the training courses completed and it‘s allowed us to develop a lot of transferable skills. I feel that the training has enhanced all of the mentors’ skillsets, especially for those wanting to pursue a career in mental health or working with children.” 

Supported by funding from the Office for Students, Research England and the Premier League Charitable Fund, Tackling the Blues uses a student focussed model to provide innovative ways in engaging students in knowledge exchange to improve their knowledge, understanding and experiences of mental health in education and local communities.  

Students from the Faculty of Education or the Department of Sport and Physical Activity who are interested in finding out more about Tackling the Blues and how they can get involved in the 2021/2022 academic year are encouraged to visit the new Tackling the Blues website to find out more information.  

Edge Hill marks Mental Health Awareness Week

To mark this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, 10th-16th May, we’re placing a spotlight on the milestones and achievements marked by the Edge Hill community in the field of mental health over the past 12 months. 

From hosting unique and engaging events, to conducting leading research and delivering mental health training to the next generation, the University is continually innovating to raise awareness and increase knowledge at a time when mental health has never been more important. 

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 

The University hosted its flagship mental health event on Monday 10th May with a special online event starring TV and radio star Roman Kemp, who gave a first-hand account of his emotional BBC documentary Our Silent Emergency, which explores the mental health and suicide crisis gripping young men across the UK. 

Roman joined a line-up of experts for an open and honest conversation about mental health. 

Rugby League Carers’ Offload programme 

Researchers at Edge Hill University published the first study of its kind into the benefits of Rugby League Cares’s Offload programme and concluded it is saving lives and providing those involved in the game a safe space for men to discuss mental health. 

The research was conducted by Professor Andy Smith, Dr David Haycock and Rachel Wilcock has been published in the international journal, Mental Health and Physical Activity, and is currently free to access online.  

Tackling the Blues launches bitesize programme 

Tackling the Blues, an award-winning sport and arts-based education programme, launched a series of online bitesize lessons to help teachers support children and young people’s mental health during lockdown

Developed in partnership by Edge Hill University, Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool, the five-week programme BLUES responded to the pupil mental health and wellbeing concerns faced by schools in the partnership. 

Mentor wants mental health to take centre stage in schools 

A performer who is training as a psychotherapist at Edge Hill is using her creative talents to encourage children and young people to open up about their mental health through the arts

Olivia Izzo, 26, is studying an MSc in Psychotherapy and Counselling at Edge Hill following a career as a performer and actor. Since joining the University, Olivia has been appointed as a mentor for Tackling the Blues, Edge Hill’s mental health literacy programme for schools in partnership with Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool. 

Tackling the Blues is a sport, physical activity, arts and education-based mental health literacy programme supporting children and young people aged 6 to 16 years who are experiencing, or at risk of developing, mental illness. 

Study reveals the benefits of sleep and physical activity on mental health

Researchers at Edge Hill University have investigated how sleep and physical activity could influence the mental health of children and young people living in Lancashire.

Dr Richard Tyler and Professor Stuart Fairclough have completed a new study on how daily activity behaviours such as physical activity, sleep, and being sedentary relate to children’s mental health and wellbeing. The study was recently published in the Journal of Sports Sciences.

Trailblazing programme supports mental health in schools and colleges

In March 2020, students attended a launch event for the new Education Mental Health Practitioner PGDip course. Edge Hill University is trailblazing a new programme to train people for new roles to support mental health in schools and colleges.

The Education Mental Health Practitioner PGDip course will see students work across education and healthcare settings to provide early intervention mental health support for children and young people in schools and colleges. These new roles will support the Government’s priority of increasing access to mental health and wellbeing support for children and young people with a focus on early intervention. 

Edge Hill University’s Wellbeing Team is available to support students with their health and wellbeing needs throughout their time at Edge Hill. Members of staff are encouraged to contact the Wellbeing Support Service, who are available to provide wellbeing support during the pandemic, at [email protected]

Campus Support are always available out of hours to provide help while on campus and can be reached on 01695 584227. 

The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 (free from any phone) or you can email [email protected]. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.