Mental health is a topic of conversation that we think should be spoken about on a more regular basis. As the time has passed the footwear community has grown at such a huge rate. The level of support we see from some individuals and groups is what makes this community so special to many of us and why we immerse ourselves deeply into it.
For World Mental Health Day we wanted to help push that message forward and met up with one of the founding members of the charity Ifucareshare, Matthew Smith. Ifucareshare are a mental health charity that help those who have experienced a loss through suicide or at risk of suicide. Supplying as much support as they can they even work with local authorities within the northeast to help reach out to those within 48hrs of experiencing a loss.
Our community is important to us. We want to be able to offer the right resources to you in order to help at least 1 person through their time of need. Don’t be afraid to share your stories, the community is here to listen. If you would like to find out more we recommend heading over to the Ifucareshare instagram page or their website. Alternatively if you need someone to talk to please text IUCS to 85258 and somewhere will be there to support you.
Matt, thank you for letting us spend some time with you! Before we get into things we always like to ask people we interview how they are. So, Matt! How are you?
I’m good, yeah! Had a good day, got to enjoy a little bit of sun in the North East which is very rare! Otherwise doing well and looking forward to chatting a bit more.
How are you?!
I’m good thank you! I must admit you don’t get asked that a lot as an interviewer so appreciate you asking.
Could we start off a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m Matthew Smith, I am one of the founders of Ifucareshare. Ifucareshare are suicide prevention and bereevement charity based in the North East. Working with many people within the North East but also across the country – young people, businesses working with anybody really. We look to talk about mental health and to talk about sucide in a way that it’s not normally talked about. In a real way, in a personal way. While also supporting those who have lost someone through suicide or who are at risk of suicide themselves within the North East.
How did you start Ifucarehshare?
It comes from a family story, of losing somebody to suicide. I lost my brother in 2005. Dan was 19 when he took his own life, he was just a normal 19 year old lad and we still don’t know why he made that decision. Unfortunately you often find that it’s quite commonly the case, people not wanting to speak out. We decided that we wanted to help stop other people having to go through the pain we went through as a family, but also help people through what Dan was feeling before what happened and we will continue to do that as the years move on.
How did the name come about? It’s super easy to remember.
It’s got quite a personal story in how it came together. It was after Dan died. Dan took his own life in our own house and moved into my aunties house where she put us up for months. I was sat one night with my cousin Sarah who is a year above me and wanted to do something so that we could remember Dan. Wristbands were very in at the time and thought right we want to put Dan’s name on the wrist band and also something else. I wish I could take credit for the name but it was my cousin’s idea. We bounced around ideas like sharetocare, caretoshare and Ifucareshare was something that came up. The idea was that if you care about your friends, family and most importantly yourself then you should share. Sharing is everything we do and want to try to encourage everybody else to do at the same time. We firmly believe that talking will and does save lives.
I think your spot on it really is a life saver. Being a part of such a great cause must be very rewarding when you see people slowly getting back up on their feet.
Yeah 100%. This is a subject that doesn’t discriminate, also something that affects us all and we all have our own different journeys with it. We are fortunately there for those who may be struggling with their journey in those difficult experiences and within those dark times.
It’s a mission for me. Personally from when we first started I remember being 10 years old sat in front of the camera and being asked similar questions like why Ifucareshare and things. I just wanted to prevent 1 brother from having to go through what I went through and help one family member/loved one from feeling that pain I felt. That’s what continues to drive me, continues to drive us as an organisation but also as a family because now we are all one big family here. That’s where the reward comes from. Knowing that I am able to continue to drive this mission and keeping Dan’s legacy alive.
Have you found learning about and helping others with their experiences has helped you with your own?
Biggest thing I have learnt is about myself. In terms of my own grief and managing that grief, it doesn’t go away as much as you try to keep it away. It’s always still there. Understanding that, I will still manage that. I can’t just pretend to just tuck it away. Also the importance of not just giving to others but giving to yourself. We spoke about it just before – in order to be able to help someone else you need to be able to help yourself. That was one thing I learnt quite often. I am always learning though, things that make me tick, things from other people and I think one of things I learnt from the worst situation I have ever found myself in, is that I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing people and organisations creating the opportunity to have conversations like we have today.
Before we started this interview we spoke about your tattoos which to me were almost like a symbolic mantra that you follow. Could you tell us a bit more about those?
I do have different tattoos that are symbolic to what I wanted to carry. It kind of came from the wrist band idea if I’m honest. The wristband idea was that I always wanted Dan with me, so I wanted to do the same thing with my tattoos. I got it on my wrist, his name and also our star signs – Dans, mine and my little brothers. I have also tattooed the semicolon. The semicolon is all around suicide provention and that your story contiues, its not the end of somebodies story. Dan’s death was not the end of my story, I still have a story and will continue it. For many others when they feel the end is there, it’s often the case it’s not. There is a life after suicide. Theres a story after suicide. We just want people to be a part of that story and stay for the story, because life is tough but life is also amazing.
For those who are either struggling at the moment or looking to find support, what would you say to them?
I think whenever anybody gets asked this question of what do you do. Your first response tends to be – talk to somebody. Which is true, talking, sharing that’s why it’s in our name, but it’s hard. What I always say is to try to understand yourself and what works for you, because we can’t all just sit down and pour our feelings out. I also find it hard. Somethings yeah sure I can talk about them but some of those deep down feelings are sometimes too hard to verbalise. So I might text them or write them down. There’s different ways of communicating but as well as all this you need to take into account selfcare. What are you doing for yourself? There are so many things we could be doing from managing our sleep, our diets, exercise, and communicating. There are loads of stuff we could all be doing to better ourselves and look after our own well beings. As a kid you are always taught about having your five a day and how important it is in our lives. There are probably at least 5 things a day we could be doing for our own mental health – we could be talking to people, exercising, helping others, and keeping learning etc…
But for somebody who is in a dark place, it’s tough I can’t lie. There is always hope and there is always something that can be done. Maybe it starts by holding up our hands and saying I need a bit of a helping hand.
What would be the best way for someone to reach out to you guys?
So in terms of communicating with us. We are still a 9-5 service, Monday to Friday. We are always looking for new way to communicate with people and social media has been a big thing for us and the way we engage with so many people and get support from so many people. It brings it back to the family side of this. We are a huge family and we want other to be a part of it. For those who are really struggling, we are fortunate enough to be part of a text service. Where people can text the letters IUCSF to 85258 and receive completely confidential support any time day or night.
One thing I want to ask about is some advice to people who want to support someone close to them or that they know but are not quite sure how to open the conversation up with them. What knowledge could you pass on to those individuals?
I would approach that person and say ‘I noticed that you’re struggling but I don’t really know how to start this conversation’. I think that we often convince ourselves that we need to be an expert in something to be able to help, when actually being there for that person is huge. Sometimes you don’t even have to say anything. Just being there for that person, when potentially no one else is, is massive. I don’t think there is anything wrong with showing vulnerability to a person that already feels vulnerable. With what I do, supporting people I also in my own personal life have had friends who I’ve clearly seen are struggling and I don’t have the answers at that time for that need. But by being there and asking them something as simple as ‘how are you doing today, is there anything I can do?’. That then creates that idea of problem shared, problem halved and where I think we can save more lives. If we can all invest more in conversations with other people I think that we can all save more lives. We’ve spent so long saying that we need to talk, I think we just need to get better at listening as well in the right way for that person.
To join your team do people require to be trained in Mental Health Support and if so how can people get involved who may be interested?
I think it’s about understanding the mission and what you want to achieve. There are so many amazing people up and down the country playing their part for people that are struggling. I naturally diverted into things I was into like Footpatrol and things that Dan was interested in. We wanted to find a way that we felt we could start the conversation. It’s all about what you want to achieve and don’t be afraid to reach out to other organisations. I am more than happy to talk to anyone that wants to take part in this, it brings it all back to the communication side of things. We all want to achieve the same thing and we all want to work together. We worked with some fantastic organisations all over the country all wanting to do the same things. So if you are serious about it. GO FOR IT! If you help one person, it’s worthwhile doing.
Just before we let you go. Could you tell us a bit more about what you do with Football clubs? It’s a tough industry to be a part of mentally for players.
The first association we had with football was that we as a family love football. It was a huge part of mine and Dan’s relationship/friendship, he educated me in football. I used to be at an academy and he would come watch all sorts of things like that. It played a huge part in our lives. When we decided we wanted to work with young people, we contacted a family friend and mentioned that this is what we wanted to do. He worked at a football club. So we went in and the rest is history so to speak. We were very fortunate that we were able to partner up with LFE (League Football Education) which works across the football league, the premier league and also with the WSL now as well. We have been working in partnership with them now for the last 10 seasons talking about mental health and suicide in a normal relatable way.
I feel that we quite often think that in that industry, in that world because they live this amazing dream that they are immune from these issues. There are still people that still have life to deal with, but also it’s a tough industry, it’s a competitive industry by its nature as its all competition. There is always insecurity, uncertainty and not every footballer is living in a huge mansion and driving xyz cars. There are players up and down the country that are fighting for bread for their families because at the end of the day it is their job. It isn’t always the fortunate position where you are consistently getting enough to cover everything. You have a lot of players that are out of work by their mid 30s and if they are lucky 40s/mid 40s. That then can lead to a lot of players losing their identities as that is all they’ve known since they were like 9. So the question around that is how do we replace that.
There is a lot of work being done in football. I always feel passionately that football has a voice to amplify that to so many different types of people and talk to them in so many different types of ways. We spoke earlier about the sneaker community and streetwear community and how there are loads of these different types of places where we can help and amplify that message.
Matt thank you so much for your time today, we really do appreciate and enjoy talking about the wider mental health topic. Before we let you go, is there anything else you would like to share with the Footpatrol community that you think they need to hear?
First and foremost thank you to you guys for letting us do this. For me I just want to spread a little bit of hope. No matter what you’ve gone through, no matter how difficult it may feel; you can get through it. Suicide is a perminate soluation to a temporary problem.
If anybody or any reader in any way can take anything from this. It’s to take that hope and use it to talk, to listen and to support. The only way this issue will go, is that if WE as a community start talking about it and if the people reading this can do that then its job done for me, I would be more than happy.