Offload project empowers Fiddlers Ferry staff
LAST month the Offload programme, supported by Widnes Vikings, celebrated its one-year anniversary.
The acclaimed programme sees players, coaches and referees past and present work with people from across the Widnes area to improve their mental wellbeing.
Offload went on the road to a local business for the first time recently, travelling to Fiddlers Ferry Power Station in Cuerdley to deliver a session led by former Super League match official Ian Smith.
Sean Mellor, Offload programme co-ordinator for the Vikings, commended the enthusiasm of Fiddlers Ferry and said he was delighted by the number of people who turned up.
“We were approached by Scottish And Southern Electricity (SSE) who run Fiddlers Ferry Power Station,” Sean says.
“They wanted, like a lot of proactive employers at the moment, to do something for their employees around men’s mental health and had become aware of Offload.
“It was great and, to be fair, they (those who attended) all volunteered.
“It wasn’t compulsory, so good on SSE for really trying to push it.
“They didn’t have to go; there was no pressure put on, so the fact that 80 people over three sessions wanted to know how they could improve their mental health is testament to the weight that people are giving to this very important activity.
“I think it’s vital (that people feel comfortable).
“To be fair, walking through a door with a load of people who might be strangers and you’ve never really spoken to about serious issues and how you’re feeling takes a lot of courage.
“Anything we can do to make that journey more comfortable, like feeling at ease with your surroundings, maybe having a tea or coffee and being greeted with a smile, we will offer.”
Anyone who is unsure about attending the Offload sessions are urged to get involved; the programme has been described as ‘life-changing’ by past attendees.
A knowledge of rugby league isn’t needed for the programme and, as Sean explains, the sessions are delivered in a fun and interactive manner.
“Humour forms a big part of it; it isn’t delivered in an undertaker-style,” he says.
“There are a few jokes and a few laughs, just to make people feel at ease. ●
“But, the people who come to us from the State of Mind programme (a charity associated with rugby league) and deliver the sessions are very aware, because of where they’ve been.
“They’ve all been in dark places, and deep down, they know it is a very serious issue.
“We have our regular Tuesday night session which we call an ‘open session’; people come from all over and walk into the stadium and straight into the classroom.
“We want to get as many people as possible talking so we would urge people to come down and see for themselves how big of an impact the Offload programme could have.”
Offload is being delivered in partnership with the independent charity Rugby League Cares.
For more information call 0151 495 2250 (option 4) or email seanm@widnesvikings. co.uk.
Fiddlers Ferry power station staff have benefited from Vikings’ mental health and wellbeing programme