Footballer Lumsdon opens up on mental health at wellbeing event

Published on
1 March 2024

Former Carlisle United footballer Chris Lumsdon has talked candidly about his struggle with mental health.

The stylish midfielder, who made 167 appearances for the Blues between 2004 and 2009, was speaking at a Cumberland Building Society Wellbeing Day.

The event included workshops from Andy’s Man Club and neurodiversity charity Owl Blue, mindfulness classes, and sessions focused on the importance of talking openly about mental health and wellbeing.

During his talk Lumsdon recalled how, his mental health issues began after he joined Championship side Barnsley and found himself out of the team.

“I was homesick, living on my own in a place where I didn’t know many people. I told the manager I was struggling, but his response was ‘you’re a footballer, man up’.”

He considered giving up professional football but a move to Carlisle United, where manager Paul Simpson was nurturing and supportive, revived his career.

Chris now helps young people with mental health advice alongside football skills through his business Lumsdon Elite Coaching.

He added: “If you are starting to struggle, there are ways to get assistance, to learn how to practise self-care.”

His presentation went down well with the audience. David Noble, a risk oversight manager at the Cumberland, said: “Chris talked in such a positive way about what can be a negative subject.

“He made people feel confident to talk about their mental health in the same way they’d talk about their physical health.”

The Cumberland has long prioritised mental health as part of its ‘kinder banking’ purpose. It has trained 12 volunteers as mental health and wellbeing champions who support colleagues.

This was the second time it has hosted a Wellbeing Day at its Cumberland House head office in Carlisle.

Activities included fitness and mindfulness classes, workshops on men’s mental health, neurodiversity and supporting family members in their mental health, and a session on Ikigai, a Japanese concept of life purpose.

Virtual talks also ran during the week for colleagues that couldn’t attend in person.

Business manager Tom Little, who organised the event, said: “We started the Wellbeing Day last year and were delighted with the way colleagues engaged.

“This year the sessions have been packed. We’ve had around 250 colleagues taking part and the quality of the content of the talks has been brilliant.”

Carolyn Rowcroft, a mortgage hub manager, found the mindfulness class especially worthwhile. She said: “We spend a lot of time at our desks so it was useful to learn techniques to use day-to-day to relieve stress and pressure.”

The Cumberland has introduced a number of avenues in which colleagues can reach out for support, including a 24/7 employee assistance programme, a menopause support group, and a men’s group. The business will continue their focus on employee wellbeing this year, celebrating neurodiversity week in March.

The neurodiversity charity Owl Blue delivered a Wellbeing Day workshop as did Andy’s Man Club, which provides a forum for men to talk through problems. Chris Green, lead facilitator for Andy’s Man Club, said: “Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 54. One of the problems is that men don’t talk about stuff, they keep it in. Our message is that it’s okay to talk.

“We started in Carlisle in January so being here has helped to raise awareness. It’s important that women know about us too because wives and girlfriends often push their men to come along.”

The Cumberland was a finalist at last year’s British HR Awards, recognised for its approach to staff wellbeing being. It was also rated one of the UK’s best large employers in Best Companies’ annual survey, which praised the Society for its appointment of mental health and wellbeing champions and its support group for colleagues going through the menopause.