Well-known speakers including Luther Blissett and radio host Russ Kane hosted a ‘chat show’ style event encouraging openness about mental health.

Watford Wellness Club was launched at an event titled Well Well Well: Do not believe everything you think at the Pump House Theatre.

Speakers encouraged discussion and called on attendees to “drop the stigma” around mental health and recognise “it's OK not to be OK”.

Read more:

The event featured Watford FC legend Mr Blissett and his new community charity The Former Players Club, Mr Kane, veteran Norman McGuigan, Miss England finalist Paige Ashton, James Lindsay from Herts Mind, campaigner Antonio Ferreira, business mentor Neville Spiers, and Councillor Rabi Martins.

Mr Kane, who co-founded mental health focussed radio Men’s Radio Station, said: “It was an absolute pleasure to be invited.

“What a tremendous success the evening was. Wonderful atmosphere and real honesty in the room.

“I’m very keen to roll this out to cover so many other aspects of mental health and wellbeing. So much to be done and achieved.”

Watford Observer: Rabi Martins and Neville Spiers. Picture: Stephen DanzigRabi Martins and Neville Spiers. Picture: Stephen Danzig (Image: Stephen Danzig)

The Former Players Club launched the wellness club, in collaboration with Councillor Rabi Martins, as its third Gamechanger project and another event is due to take place in the new year.

The night, created and produced by Mr Blissett's partner Lauren Fox, took on a chat show format to deliver insight on a series of topics.

These included the value of ‘mental wellness’ as a label, social pressures, empowerment, and the importance of professional support.

Keynote speaker and business mentor Neville Spiers delivered a speech on life with autism, a condition he joked “hadn’t been invented” when he was young.

Watford Observer: The panel. Picture: Stephen DanzigThe panel. Picture: Stephen Danzig (Image: Stephen Danzig)

He explained how he went from not understanding why he was different to realising life was a lot better just being himself.

The format enabled invited guests to discuss the topics together and be interviewed about their personal stories and thoughts by the audience.

Mr Blissett spoke about the loss and impact on wellbeing experienced by professional footballers. 

He explained: “You wake up and think you are going training. Then you remember. So, you go to ring your mates, but they are all training. And it hits you.”

Norman McGuigan, from Minds at War, said: “The underlining factor that stood out from the stories that were told was how the participants on stage felt they had been failed by the system.

“I was very impressed by the host Russ Kane, his style of questioning made me feel at ease and established a connection with sporting legends I can fully relate to and understand.

“I listened to the story of Luther and I could hear the pain he carries in his voice. 

"He is right, education from grass roots is imperative. We should not hide behind our smile, it is time to take off the mask and stand proud, delivery is the way forward.

“Drop the stigma, drop the mask, deliver education.”

Miss England finalist Paige Ashton spoke on the conflict between her life in pageants and high functioning depression before James Lindsay and Antonio Ferreira spoke on their own diagnosis with mental illness.

Watford Observer: Paige Ashton. Picture: Stephen DanzigPaige Ashton. Picture: Stephen Danzig (Image: Stephen Danzig)

Mr Lindsay had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and spoke about his lived experience overcoming the mental illness, as well as his marketing work for charity Herts Mind.

Mr Ferreira joined him and spoke on his campaigning work on anti-racism and shifting the way we view and address mental health.

He also explained the traumatic experience he faced as a teenager when he was diagnosed with undifferentiated schizophrenia, emotionally unstable personality disorder, and experienced auditory hallucinations.

Mr Blissett took to Twitter during the night, calling the speakers "inspirational" adding that they delivered "incredible insight" and labelling Mr Lindsay a “hero”.

Beth Sandler then introduced the audience to her organisation Herts Schools Outreach, a programme which helps young people understand and access support for mental wellbeing.

She explained the influence of social media and the importance of safeguarding as school children are being “lost” to the world.

Cllr Martins said: “As mental health champion my mantra is ‘It is ok not to be ok but very important to talk about it’.

“I believe that Watford Wellness Club will encourage and facilitate dialogue across Watford.

"I want to thank The Former Players Club for partnering with me, without whose creativity and support we could not have assembled such a powerful panel of speakers and given Watford Wellness Club such a promising start.”

Have you got a story for us? You can contact us here.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to keep up with all the latest news.

To receive breaking news alerts or newsletters sign up here.