Healthwatch Essex to Host Fella’s Fair at Braintree Town Football Club

Healthwatch Essex, is bringing their successful men’s health initiative to Braintree on 12th March 2024.

The first Fella’s Fair ran last year in Heybridge and had an excellent turnout and reception. This year, the charity is pleased to announce its partnership with Braintree Town Football Club, Braintree District Council and Mid and South Essex Integrated Care System, to host a Fella’s Fair at the town’s football ground. The event aims to foster more open discussion and awareness surrounding men’s health issues, providing a platform for men to engage with health and care professionals in a supportive environment.

Throughout the event, guest speakers will address players in the changing room before the match, shedding light on men’s health issues. Health professionals will be available throughout the match, providing valuable information and resources. Attendees can also benefit from NHS health checks and will have the opportunity to speak with various groups offering information on addiction, hearing loss, mental health, weight management, domestic violence and more.

The Fella’s Fair, which on this occasion is being funded by the UK Prosperity Fund courtesy of Braintree District Council, was designed to address the often overlooked yet critical aspects of men’s health. Braintree Football Club Assistant Coach, John White, shared poignant reflections on the significance of the event:

John White (left) with Jason Baker, Healthwatch Essex Engagement Officer.

“Mental health for me is something that is getting spoken about a lot more than it ever used to be. When I was coming through in the youth team at Colchester in the scholarship side of things, I always thought I had to just get on with this, no matter what happened, just get on with it, crack on, forget about it. The old term of ‘man up’ used to come out from time to time and I don’t know if it’s something that has affected me on and off throughout the years of my career.

“Recently, I’ve had a really close friend of mine who unfortunately took his own life; they found the pressures and stresses of life too much to take. It’s hit myself, his family and his friends extremely hard and it’s something that we are kind of going through together. We meet up and we discuss what happened. We try and be as honest as we can with our feelings and I think that that is something that really, really helps. It’s been tough.

“It has kind of opened my eyes a little bit more to what is going on. And it’s going on around me. I didn’t want to be oblivious to that; I didn’t want it to happen to people close to me, without knowing that I was doing everything I could to keep in touch and check on people, making sure they’re doing okay. It’s a tough time both in sport – where the pressure is high, the energy is high, there’s a lot of expectation – and in the real world outside of the bubble of sport and football as well. There’s a lot of people going through some really, really tough times.”

“For me the Fella’s Fair is a huge thing.  The more we can speak about men’s health, the better it is, and it raises that awareness for those around us right now.”

Jason Baker, Engagement Officer from Healthwatch Essex, who is organising the event, shared why he believes it is so important:

“One of the first steps in tackling men’s health issues, particularly mental health, is normalizing and encouraging talking about it. The idea with this event was to bring support, advice, and expertise to a place where a predominantly male crowd gathers anyway, so that they could benefit from having the opportunity to hear stories from their peers and understand more about issues that could affect them or their friends in the future. We’re incredibly pleased with how well the event at Heybridge Swifts Football Club went last year and that has sparked interest from other clubs to run a similar event for their own players and fans.”

All members of the community are welcome to attend the event at Braintree Town Football Club. It will begin at 6:00 PM on 12th March 2024, with the kick-off scheduled for 7:45 PM, as Braintree faces Dartford.