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10 May

Community Conversations - Graeme's Story

Earlier this year we launched our Mental Health Awareness campaign, Howstha? where we are helping to create awareness on the topic of mental health and reduce the associated stigma across communities in Yorkshire.

To help support Mental Health Awareness Week, we caught up with Graeme who has recently signed up to one of our free online learning courses. Graeme has been very open and honest about his experiences with gambling addiction, and consequently mental health. See the interview below to hear how Graeme hopes to use the learnings from the course to help others!

Tell us a bit about yourself…

My name is Graeme Love, I am 27 years old, currently living in Bingley Town Centre (renting). Cricket has always been a massive part of my life. I didn’t start playing until I was 14 or 15, I went to school with a few people that played for Bingley Congs CC and I got roped in to play a couple of junior matches and enjoyed it. I started playing senior cricket in 2010, I got one of those early Saturday phone calls and then really got the taste for it. I played at Bingley Congs until 2011, and after deciding I wanted to play elsewhere, I moved to Oakworth CC in 2012. After a fairly unsuccessful season (personally) with Oakworth I moved back to Bingley Congs in 2013. I stayed at Bingley Congs until 2019. In that time, I became part of the committee, and in 2016 started the 3rd Team and captained it until 2019. After the 2019 season I decided I wanted a change of scenery, I had started to get my life back on track and felt that I had burnt a few too many bridges with folk and decided it was time for a fresh start. So, in 2020, just after the pandemic began, I joined Bradley CC and played there. It wasn’t an unpleasant (curtailed) season, it just wasn’t for me. I have always been a fairly ambitious person, and in November 2020 I met with a couple of club members from Crossflatts. They explained to me their vision, their ambitions, how I would fit in and I haven’t really looked back. Even though I have only been on board a few months it is a great club with great ambitions to improve, such as the ever-expanding junior section and the newly formed 3rd team (which I was brought in to run) and the women & girls’ section which starts May 2021.

How did you hear about the mental health courses the YCF are offering?

I heard about the mental health courses YCF were offering when a club member posted them in our Whatsapp Group and asked if anybody was interested in signing up, at which point I immediately jumped at the chance.

What piqued your interest in the courses?

My interest in signing up stems from my own journey and my own battles with addiction. I have been attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings since November 2018 and on 28th February 2021 I reached 1 year of sobriety. I am at a point in my addiction where I feel I am that far along on my road to recovery that I am in a position to start giving back and helping others who struggle with mental health problems. I more than understand how factors such as social pressure, work issues and financial difficulty can make people struggle. I am approaching this from the Gambling side of things, but Mental Health is a massive part of my recovery. I would not go as far to say I have been there and done it as everyone’s story is different but when I hear other people speak about the obstacles they have faced and either have overcome or are in the process of overcoming, if I have not been in that particular position myself, I can certainly put myself in that person’s shoes. I guess to summarise, I want to be able to help other people where possible and me signing up for this course is me putting my foot on the ladder to do so.

How do you feel the Awareness in Mental Health Problems course will help you?
I feel the course will help me to better understand the different aspects of mental health and how triggers such as changes, emotions or surroundings can affect people differently. It allows me to explore and understand the different types of mental health and how things affect everyone differently based on mindset and background. The course will also allow me to put myself in a position to be able to work in the field of mental health. It is certainly an area I wish to work in, and I feel as well as having my own personal story of where I have been and come from in terms of my own recovery, having qualifications is key, and this course allows me to do that.

How are you finding the course so far?
I am finding the course very interesting. It is allowing me to delve deeper into the different types of mental health and how different types of mental health affect people, whilst also informing me what types of support and help there is out there, and also how the public’s perception and reaction to mental health has changed over the years.

What’s your experience from others been like in relation to your own mental health and gambling addiction?
In regards to my recovery and the journey I have been on, I can only really speak about gambling addiction. I have attended “It’s Okay To Talk About It” which is similar to Andy’s Man Club. I would say anyone that has attended Gamblers Anonymous and remained sober for a length of time, their life has improved tenfold. I am not allowed to go into specifics of the struggles and hardships of anyone but myself, but I will say that it doesn’t matter how bad anyone’s situation is, there is always the support out there to turn things around.

Why do you think it’s so important we work as a cricket network to increase awareness on mental health?
I think it is important that you work as a cricket network to increase awareness and get yourself into the general public amongst local and village cricket clubs so that players of all backgrounds know that if they are struggling and do need to talk about it, there are services out there that can help. I have always found cricket a release from the everyday problems of life, however big or small, however I have played more or less my entire life (up until June 2019) with the weight of the world on my shoulders, or so it felt, and I was unable to focus or be mentally there for the sport I had grown to love. I have shared dressing rooms with players that I have known have struggled mentally with personal issues but have not been willing to speak up. And as I have discovered, cricket at the level I play at tends to be a predominantly male-orientated sport, and males tend to find it harder to speak out than females.

Would you recommend the courses that the YCF offer to others?
I would certainly recommend the courses that YCF offers. I can remember when I initially signed up there were a range of courses on offer varying in the types of field they covered. The members of staff I have spoken to have been more than helpful and I don’t have a bad word to say. As well as offering helpful qualifications, the course also allows the student a chance to discover more on the wide variety of mental health issues out there and the support and networks available.

Finally, what will you do within your community to reduce the stigma associated with mental health?
In regards to what I will do personally, I have had a few ideas. I have already put it out there to my local cricket club that my phone number is always available, night or day, should any club member wish to speak to me regarding issues of mental health. Going forward I would like to offer drop-in sessions of a sort, or perhaps an afternoon or evening where club members can attend (when restrictions allow) and I give a therapy as to my journey, what led me to gambling, what led me to GA and the steps I have taken to improve my life.

If you would like more information on the YCF’s Howstha? campaign, or would like further information on the courses offered by the YCF in partnership with the Skills Network, contact Beth at beth.cook@yorkshirecricketfoundation.com

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