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14th April 2020 Foundation

Graeme Fowler on becoming Durham Cricket Foundation’s Mental Health Ambassador

Graeme Fowler is hopeful Durham’s charitable arm, Durham Cricket Foundation, can spearhead an initiative to raise awareness of mental health across the North East and the game of cricket itself.

Fowler has battled depression and anxiety for over a decade, but has found a comfort in speaking about his issues – notably in the release of two books produced in the past five years.

The former England batsman now serves as Mental Health Ambassador for the Foundation, and he with the aid of the charity are in position – once the appropriate social restrictions in place due the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted –  to deliver a workshop to inform and support men and women in cricket clubs across the region about the key issues surrounding mental health.

The workshops, lasting a few hours, are based on a survey developed by Fowler and renowned mental health expert Dave Belshaw, followed with a question and answer session with Fowler himself.

He believes that the Foundation can provide the platform for the programme to take off across the game.

“I spoke at a Foundation event last year about my problems with depression and anxiety,” he said.

“It was well received, and also at the time I was also mentoring some of the players. I sat down with one or two players and from that point onwards it snowballed.

“I’ve already delivered a mental health workshop for the players. We did it as a trial run to see if it would work in the community, and once again it went down excellently.

“Our plan is to go out to local cricket clubs and deliver mental health awareness sessions. I’ll also be travelling to other functions put on by the Foundation to talk to people.

“It’s going to be quite a large workload if we’re going out to all the cricket clubs, but it will be very rewarding. At Durham I think we’re ahead of other counties in our approach.

“We know our scheme, we know that it works. We have everything that we need in order to get it going.

“The idea is to phase out the delivery, initially with around ten clubs and then see how it is received.

“Phase two includes following up with MHF Mental Health First Aid courses and further sessions for individuals from different clubs to become Mental Health Champions, whom we will continue to support in the delivery of the programme so it expands exponentially.

“We’re starting with cricket because that’s who we are, but there’s no reason why the workshops cannot be delivered outside of that realm, such schools and workplaces and other areas of life.”

Fowler has admitted that initially speaking about his mental health was a challenge and remains so to this day.

However, after receiving positive feedback from strangers on the street as well as social media, he was determined to engage further in the subject and to help eradicate the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety.

“I started tweeting about my mental health and how I was feeling,” Fowler added.

“I got lots of feedback replying that they were happy that I was talking about it – these issues need to be discussed more often. I then wrote two books over a period of five years discussing my career and my issues with mental health – the second being with Mike Brearley, who is a psychologist.

“After I’d written ‘Absolutely Foxed’ people on separate occasions came up to me and thanked me for writing the book, and said that I hadn’t they wouldn’t be here. It gives you a responsibility and once you’ve got that you cannot stop, and I don’t intend to.

“It’s not always easy talking about mental health issues, but it’s necessary and it helps other people. We’re all in this together, never more so than at the present moment. We need to share and we need to look out for each other. It’s quite simple, but effective.”

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