Bryan’s story – The Changing Room
After attending our first ‘The Changing Room’ programme, Bryan decided to become a Big Hearts Volunteer and help other men improve their mental health.
How did you become involved with Big Hearts?
I went through a dark period in my life with my mental health. I actually contacted Hearts knowing how much work they do in the community and met with Craig, Big Hearts’ General Manager to talk about what I’d been going through. Craig told me Big Hearts was working on a project for men’s mental health. Few weeks later I was invited to the launch of The Changing Room project. I signed up to be a participant for the first 12 weeks of the programme.
What is The Changing Room?
It’s a project created by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), in partnership with Big Hearts, the SPFL Trust and funded by the Movember Foundation. The group is for men aged between 30 and 64 and focuses on your mental wellbeing and how to keep yourself in a positive frame of mind. It’s a nice group in a friendly setting, 9 out of 10 times held within the Hearts’ changing rooms at Tynecastle Park.
Does the project being held at Tynecastle Park make a difference?
I think it’s very innovative as it’s a place of meaning to Hearts supporters and it’s somewhere that we come together. Getting to the sessions is easier as we already have that connection to the stadium. During the sessions you engage in lots of activities including tours of the stadium and Walk and Talk – doing laps of the stadium blethering away in a sociable group of guys that are going through similar issues to yourself.
What inspired you to make the move into volunteering?
I’ve been a fan of everything that Big Hearts do over the years, but had never thought of volunteering for them. Obviously when I had my own issues the help that Big Hearts gave me made me feel it was only right to give back and help others. With Big Hearts being a charity it’s only right that I should help them back if I can – and help others out using my own experience.
How was the transition from participant to volunteer?
Attending the group helped me learn how to talk. When it comes to mental health issues men tend to not talk about it. Talking does help. It gave me a lot of new connections, new friends. I have a great connection with the other men involved, the staff, partners and participants. We meet up for coffees every week, have good banter about the football and even sometimes go to matches together. I started volunteering with match day promotion to encourage people to attend the project. Now I come along as a volunteer, helping the SAMH staff and coaching participant to help them open up more.
How has volunteering improved your life?
It’s given me pride knowing I’m helping others, which helps me feel I’m doing something worthwhile. I’m also proud of myself for being at the group every week, knowing that you’re there helping them makes you feel good. Knowing that you’re there for people and that they’ll be there for you too.
What would you say to Hearts’ fans considering volunteering?
Give it a try! I’d recommend it to anyone. Sharing leaflets on match day or holding a bucket collection, it’s definitely worthwhile. Big Hearts needs people to help them carry out the fantastic work they do.