Kick It Out ambassador and Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland was pleased to join the organisation in tackling the “taboo” of mental health at the Bet365 Stadium on Thursday 8 February.

Jack joined Paul Mortimer, Kick It Out’s Professional Players Engagement Manager, to discuss equality and mental health with It’s A Goal, a locally NHS-run support group who Stoke City’s Community Trust work closely with.

“Mental health itself is always looked upon as a bit of a taboo subject,” Jack explained. “People don’t want to speak about it, they want to bottle it up and often that’s the worst thing you can do.

“Being part of something like today, being able to speak about it with people and for them to be open and feel in a comfortable environment where they can speak about whatever it is that troubles them – I think that’s the key to it.”

He added: “I’ve had my low points with injuries and you do get really down. It differs no matter what you do, but everyone can have problems in various ways and it’s brilliant what the club are doing and what we can do with Kick It Out to help people speak about their problems and overcome them.”

After reflecting on his own struggles with mental health, Jack joined Paul in delivering an equality workshop to the group of 15 men and women from the local area.

Jack spoke enthusiastically about the importance of the session, which reflected on issues such as racism, disability and discriminatory language, and its potential impact on the attendees.

“I really enjoy Kick It Out events and the way Paul delivers them,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is educate as many people as we can on what’s right and what’s wrong and just help people out when it comes to fighting discrimination.”

Paul enjoyed the afternoon and praised Jack for his efforts for to support Kick It Out’s fight against discrimination, as well as having the courage to discuss the difficulties he went through when suffering a long-term injury.

“Jack is a fantastic ambassador for Kick It Out and makes an impact with every group we work with – our event in Stoke was no different. The group listened carefully to what he had to say around mental health and he helped them open up around difficult topics around discrimination.

“It was a pleasure working with Jack and Stoke City’s Community Trust and I am confident the It’s A Goal group will have taken a lot away from our session.”

The afternoon concluded with a stadium tour for the attendees, before Jack posed for photos and signed autographs, as the England goalkeeper looked forward to continuing his work with Kick It Out.

“It’s massively important – I like to think I can be a role model whether it be on or off the pitch. Being a part of Kick It Out is extremely important to me and I want to help educate people now, but also make sure I have a positive influence on young people and making sure they know the right path to take. So I’m really proud to be a part of it and I’ll continue to do so.”