Essex’s volunteer Referee Mental Health Champions, Adam Gordon and Gary Telling, are acting as points of contact for any match officials aged 18 or over experiencing mental health problems, encouraging conversations within the grassroots community.
Promoting the importance of mental wellbeing, the Essex County FA-registered officials are flagging the supportive Mental Health Champions Scheme, launched by The Football Association, which is providing advice and support for local referees. Adam and Gary can also help to signpost towards professional support services if required.
The transformative Mental Health Champions scheme, believed to be the first of its kind for grassroots match officials in any sport, aims to create an open environment so everyone involved in the refereeing community in Essex can talk openly and be supported.
Lukas Wood, Essex County FA Referee Development Officer, commented: “Having Gary and Adam in role allows us, as a County FA, to further support all of our referees off the pitch and signpost them to the services available. It is important to have Mental Health Champions for refereeing as mental health is being talked about more and more.”
“I’ve got to know Gary and Adam really well over the years, and both of them are really passionate about refereeing, as well as being keen to support all referees with their development. Gary regularly assists with the mentoring of referees at the Southend United FC Academy, while Adam helps with the referee appointments for the Essex County Girls’ League.”
Adam has been a referee in Essex for five years. He is currently a Level Six and continues to enjoy refereeing, hoping to do it for many more years to come. As a husband and father of two (one of whom, his daughter, is following in his footsteps and has now qualified as a referee), Adam has experienced the world of mental illness through some family members.
He’s extremely passionate about three key principles of mental health, namely: removing the stigma; encouraging sufferers to feel safe to talk to someone about their mental illness; building a much better network in wider society of help points for sufferers so nobody finds themselves waiting any longer than necessary for the help they need and deserve.
Meanwhile, Gary has been involved in football since the age of ten before becoming a referee, for the second time, in 2010 and he remains an active Level Five referee, Mentor and Observer. Gary has recently completed a degree in Psychodynamics from the University of Essex, which helped him to become more reflective and open up to others more.
He completed his degree whilst continuing to operate as Inclusion Lead at a primary school in South Essex, where he works with children who cannot always cope in a class setting, as well as supporting staff with any day-to-day issues. In all of his roles, Gary is an advocate of everyone talking to someone when they have an issue or problem.
If you’re an Essex referee who’d like a confidential conversation, please first make contact with Adam via firstname.lastname@example.org or Gary at email@example.com. Details can also be found in the 'Referees' menu above, by following @EssexCountyFA and @EssexReferees on Twitter and by searching for ‘EssexFootball’ and ‘EssexReferees’ on Facebook.