Mental health is a serious condition that has affected so many people around the world and cricketers have not been left out from too. The man I have the honour to have on cricktalk20 today has been working tirelessly at the forefront of bringing awareness of mental health, through his organisation Opening Up Cricket, today I have with me, Mark Boyns.
Hi, Mark tell us a little about yourself?
I’m the founder of Opening Up Cricket as well as someone who is involved in the game at club level. My club is Sefton Park in Liverpool where I am currently cricket chairman. For work, I teach History & Politics.
How did you get involved in cricket?
At primary school playing kwik cricket. I loved how there were three chances- batting, bowling, fielding- to be involved and how you be successful as an individual but more importantly as a team.
Who was your inspiration growing up?
I started playing cricket in Warwickshire in the 1990s so I didn’t need to look too far to be inspired by the greatest batsman of my generation, Brian Lara. I was fortunate enough to watch him as a kid at Edgbaston. I also held Allan Donald as a hero too from his time at the county.
How did you start opening up cricket?
Opening Up was started as an idea back in 2014. I lost a friend to suicide and was searching for something to do to remember him by. His greatest love was cricket so it dawned on me after a while that the sport could be used to speak to people about mental wellbeing and suicide prevention.
When did you first realize there was an urgent need for mental health in cricket?
It was through Alex dying that I realised there was a need to speak to people directly about mental health. Cricket seemed like the best route to do that. The more that time has gone on, the more I have seen that the sport is well-positioned to receive the message. Team sport provides all the ways to be mentally healthy so we approach it from a positive angle. The more people know about mental health, the more they can thrive but also support mates.
Do you speak with players in need directly or do you speak at forums?
We run sessions for clubs, players and coaches. These are in the style of a regular training session except we are talking about mental wellbeing. Participants can hopefully leave with things that are good for their team but, most importantly, their health and that of others.
As part of the sessions, we signpost to where appropriate professional support is available for those in need of it.
How would you say your organization has made an impact on those who you have come in contact with?
I would like to think we have made people think more about mental health. It’s such a diverse topic and our role is to start a conversation about it in a club setting and support them with ideas and resources.
Are you only based in the UK or do you travel globally?
We are based in the UK but I have done sessions in Australia before during a break from work. The ambition is to offer the sessions as widely as possible in years to come.
Where do you see opening up cricket in the next five years?
Doing the same thing but reaching more people!