Wigan venue the Snake Pit wrestling with the scourge of mental illness
A famous Wigan wrestling venue is determined to tackle the scourge of mental illness among men after a sportsman who trained there took his own life.
The Snake Pit in Aspull is using one of its most high-profile competitions of the year to break the stigma around speaking out about feelings.
Other news: Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and West Lancs MP Rosie Cooper vote for Boris' Brexit dealThe venue has teamed up with Andy’s Man Club, set up by someone who lost his own brother-in-law, to raise awareness of mental illness after the Snake Pit was shocked by the death of popular wrestler Ian Bromley earlier this year.
And when Andrea Wood, who is director at the venue where her dad Roy Wood does the coaching, spoke to the other wrestlers in the wake of the tragedy she realised there was an urgent need to put mental health top of the agenda.
She said: “After Ian died a lot of men started speaking to me, saying they had been struggling as well. Some had lost their jobs or been off work sick because of it.
“I couldn’t believe the response. There’s a massive need in the wrestling community and Ian’s death has created a platform to talk about it.
“At this stage it’s about signposting people when they are having a bad time. If you break your leg you ring an ambulance, if there’s a social care issue you ring social services, but with mental health issues you don’t always have the numbers to ring to hand.
“Not everybody will go to the GP about it. I want everyone to have a phone number for an organisation they can link to if they need.
“At some point you or someone you know will come across needing mental health support and we have to be armed with information.”
The Snake Pit’s messages about mental health will be broadcast loud and clear when wrestlers from far and wide descend on Wigan for the venue’s Catch Wrestling World Championships 2019 on November 1.
Andy’s Man Club has donated wristbands, flyers and other objects to be given out on the night.
Between the later rounds of the tournament video footage of the final interview Ian did with a group of students from Manchester and a filmed message from the founder of the national charity will be played to the audience.
The Snake Pit is also supporting a hashtag which it hopes will be appropriate for the wrestling community.
Andrea said: “It’s called #17:17 and it’s like a fighters’ code for wrestlers looking out for one another.
“The aim is to build on the brotherhood culture in wrestling where the guys help each other.
“The code is about asking if you are OK but asking if you are really alright, not just to be answered with ‘I’m fine’.
“We all need to acknowledge that we can talk and we’ve got to talk about these things no matter how manly or macho we are.”