A Wigan dad who lost four friends to suicide in two years has launched a five-a-side football team to help raise awareness of men’s mental health.
Peter Hill, a singer and DJ from Beech Hill, is recruiting anyone with an "open mind" to join the Place2Place football club at Soccerdome Wigan to help support those struggling with inner demons or to gain the confidence to face their own.
The 33-year-old dad-of-one came face to face with the devastating effects of depression in 2014 when his best friend took his own life at the age of 30.
Shortly after his friend passed away, his friend’s stepdad and brother also committed suicide. Within the space of 18 months, three men in the same family had taken their own lives.
It was following the three tragic deaths, and then the shock of another, that Peter decided to take a stand against mental health stigma, starting with a charity bike ride to Paris.
Along the way, he stopped to visit a number of football teams and spoke to football fans who he encountered as he cycled. During his trip, his continuous brushes with football planted the seed to start the all-inclusive group.
"People have been gathering around football for year and years," he said. "It’s a great way of getting people involved. We have players of all capabilities, the idea is that you can come down, stick on a kit and get on that field.
"It’s not like we say ‘ok now gentlemen we are going to sit down and discuss our feelings’, and having met a lot of groups, the most effective are the ones who didn’t do that."
After months of organisation, Place2PLace played their first games as official teams last week, taking part in one friendly and one league game. They will also soon be playing in the red, white and blue kit inspired by Peter’s ride to Paris."There’s so many different types of people and everyone has their own issues," he added. "There are two sides set up on the premise that if you come down you don’t have to have mental health issues but you do have to have an open mind because you might be playing alongside someone who does.
"The subject of mental health, when it’s thrust upon you like that, you become a lot more aware of it. We have got to the point now where we have got all sorts of people helping each other out. This is a support network.
"My best friend took his own life aged 30, completely out of the blue. Then his mum’s partner, he did the same thing, and then his younger brother.
"It’s a horrific situation to be in, to be aware of that. It was so new to me and so traumatic. Since the football group, I
have spent maybe half a day each week organising the team.
"It takes you away from everything.
"It’s what you need after going through challenging circumstances."
Peter is hoping to get men in the borough talking about their mental health and crush the "man up" attitude which makes men feel like they cannot discuss their problems. Once Place2Place has taken off, he also has plans to extend
"Generally there is a problem for men between 20 to 40 years old in terms of mental health, suicide is the biggest killer of men between these ages, but ideally mental health shouldn’t be broken up into ages or men and woman.
"I think the group is open to develop at all age groups. Eventually we are hoping to develop a youth team, we are not there yet.
"A lot of the people in the side have kids aged anywhere from seven to 16ish and most of them are chomping at the bit to get onto the pitch. They might not all have ten friends who are interested in playing football.
"I was in the same situation, my job takes me away every weekend and as a result I don’t have a massive friend circle. At least with this there are seven people to call up. It’s aimed at people who might want to do that but don’t have the social circles that other people have."
He hopes that generating a youth team would help to prepare youngsters for the battle against mental health problems.
"I would want to promote healthy lifestyles and healthy living with a view that the next generation are a bit better prepared than the millenials were."
Anyone wishing to join the club can contact Peter on 07939346875 or send a message to www.facebook.com/Place2PlaceFC