Catching up with Claire Henson

We caught up with Nottingham Forest Community Trust's mental health lead, Claire Henson, to talk about the Tricky to Talk programme, the relationship between sport and mental health and how supporters can get more involved with the Tricky Hub.

Explain your role with the Community Trust

I began my role as Mental Health Lead at Nottingham Forest Community Trust at the end of March. I am leading on the expansion of the Tricky to Talk programme, which began as part of the Trust’s work in 2019 and looks at how we can support the mental wellbeing of our fans and residents throughout the city and county. It’s fantastic to see the Trust and the Club’s support for the important work of raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health conditions.

How was it for you as a Forest fan to have football back, albeit digitally?

It was strange at first! I was so excited to see football back, but it was a very surreal experience to see no fans in the ground. However, as I got used to it, I really enjoyed having football to watch on television again. It’s all about adjusting and even though it’s not exactly how it used to be, having football back in some form was a real comfort.

Why does a sport provoke such strong feelings in supporters?

I was talking to a colleague regarding this as we’re both football fans who work in mental health and he talked about the idea of our identities being so closely aligned with our team that the celebrations and trials of the team can become our own as we are so hugely invested. This can be applied to anything in which you invest time, effort and love into as it becomes significantly tied to who we are.

How can we mentally bounce back positively to a setback?

Firstly, I would say there is no right or wrong way to feel. So allow yourself to feel it and give yourself time to recover. By telling ourselves to just power through, we only risk burning out and putting ourselves at risk of further problems. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Make sure you take time to rest, exercise and look after yourself. Most importantly, if your feelings become overwhelming or are long lasting, please seek professional support.

It’s a tough time for many people at the moment, what services have you been offering to assist with supporters’ mental health?

The pandemic has meant that some of the plans we had to expand the Tricky programme have had to be delayed, but we’ve also managed to transfer a lot of the work into an online format. Our Tricky Hubs, which were previously hosted at The City Ground once a fortnight, are now held online where we have a check in with attendees to see how they’re feeling and then a Q&A with a mental health professional. We’ve also hosted activities online for Mental Health Awareness Week and Men’s Health Week, with videos offering tips and advice and virtual cup of tea meetups.  We are looking forward to showcasing more aspects of the programme over the coming months.

How can we find out about these services?

Details of the programme can be found on the Trust’s social media channels (FacebookTwitter and Instagram) and if you would like to be included in our email updates, please let us know by emailing community@nottinghamforest.co.uk. Registration for our Tricky Hubs can be done via the same email address alongside any questions you may have about the programme.