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Off the ball?

With the World Cup in full swing, men throughout the country will bond in a spirit of camaraderie, love and friendship.

Uniting in the emotion of the beautiful game men will laugh, cry, hug and show their emotions. However, off the football pitch, macho stereotypes of male behaviour and the stigma of mental illness stops men from revealing their true thoughts and feelings.

To mark the start of Men’s Health Week, (12th to 18th June) which will focus on men’s and well-being, the Scottish Executive has created an interactive World Cup football game to get the ball rolling and encourage men to ‘wear their hearts on their sleeves’ by putting their footie feelings into play off the pitch. The game has been devised and funded by Breathing Space, Choose Life, the Scottish Recovery Network, Communities Scotland and the National Programme for Improving Mental Health and Well-being and will be distributed via email to men throughout Scotland.

With research showing that 76% of males would not be embarrassed to hug their mates and 25% admitting to crying when watching a football match, it’s clear football can have a positive impact on the emotions of Scottish men. The game encourages men to express their emotions in other parts of their lives, including listening to their friends and taking time out with people close to them.

Men are often much better at looking after their physical health than their mental well-being. However good mental health is as fundamental to general health as physical health is. It is not about feeling good all the time, but respecting emotions and finding a way to deal with them.

“It is fantastic that football provides the opportunity for men to bond and share their emotions, however it is vital that men build on this and find ways of doing the same in other areas of their life.” commented Stevie Anderson of Breathing Space, the free and confidential phone-line targeted at men,* “We will all experience instances which challenge our mental health and well-being at some point in our lives, whether it’s the break down of a relationship, losing a job or even just feeling a bit down, talking about how you feel can help maintain and strengthen your emotional health”

With one in four of us experiencing mental health problems and suicide being the most common cause of death for young men under 35 in Scotland, it is vital that men consider their emotions and take steps to maintain their health and well-being.

This game is one of many activities taking place during Men’s Health Week 2006 which culminates in the first ever men’s 10k run in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park on Father’s Day (Sunday 18th June 2006).