Working at CALM: An Interview with Luis Mackness

As huge advocates for breaking the mental health stigma, we at FC Not Alone champion any likeminded movements – and there are plenty of them. We have taken the inspiration of Mental Health Awareness Week to interview some people involved with these important programmes, and today we talk to Luis Mackness from CALM.

CALM is our biggest inspiration, and Luis is the guy who fronts up CALM’s football initiatives, from his role within the Comms department. I’ve had personal experience of Luis’s hands on approach when he managed me when I played in a CALM XI v Mundial at the Molineux. Tactical genius as we won 4-2!

What is your role at CALM, how has it been working at CALM during a pandemic?

I work for the Comms department with a focus on projects that involve teams and communities. The role is essentially getting people our info and support through the things they love. Fortunately for me that includes football, where we’ve been working tirelessly to reach more people. We’ve partnered with the Kent FA to become the first CALM FA, held a silent football match with Power League and Paul Merson to highlight the importance of talking, and we’re always on the lookout to recruit teams to fly the flag around the importance of mental health. It’s an exciting time to be at CALM.

I ended up getting involved with CALM because I ran a side and thought we could do a little bit more for each other. Doing something together week in week out meant so much to us that it didn’t seem a stretch to go a little bit further and link with an organisation that could help us all.

Since you started working within Mental Health what progress have you noticed within society?

The principle shift in society has been from the starting of conversations to taking action. I think that we’ve come a long way in acknowledging what Mental Health is and destigmatising the idea of people needing support. It’s still an issue but I think there’s more and more praise and positive acknowledgments when people open up. The next step is action and that can come in many guises. Using football to highlight where people can get support whilst also meeting up and playing is a key opportunity that CALM and FC Not Alone are working hard on.

What new challenges has the pandemic provided to a mental health charity?

The very first major challenge was events being cancelled or postponed. This meant that we saw fundraising nearly halt to a stop overnight a year ago. So like all industries, there was some rethinking to be done in order to adapt. The staff and supporters were amazing though. CALM came up with new ways to fundraise and people that cared responded in remarkable ways.

Our helpline and webchat are vital services we provide and we saw demand increase quickly and it is still higher than it was pre-pandemic. At the height of lockdown our helpline services saw a 30-40% increase in demand compared to pre covid levels. We saw a 100% increase in 16-24 year-olds visiting our site too. Another big change was the nature of the calls we received, calls were longer after lockdown and many people were calling needing help but not necessarily knowing what with. 

Unsurprisingly as the guidance and restrictions changed, so too have the caller themes and profile of callers using our helpline from social isolation, unemployment and money worries, through to domestic abuse, grief and bereavement. Each person’s struggle has been different.

This mental health awareness week is themed around nature, why do you think that’s important?

Over the past year, our worlds have become dramatically smaller. Many of us haven’t travelled further than our front door and most socialising has been done in 2D through a screen. So even just venturing outside where you live when you wanted, and when you wanted, was gone and that has definitely taken a  toll.

It’s easy talking to you about how important playing/watching/supporting football is and that was taken away various times and it’s been missed massively with every pause. Research has shown that one in four people will experience mental health issues each year, and at any one time, one in six working adults are experiencing depression, anxiety, or problems relating to stress. Spending time in green open spaces or bringing nature into your environment can provide physical and mental wellbeing benefits by improving your mood, reducing feelings of stress or anger, or helping you to take time out and feel more relaxed.

Thanks Luis! As we mentioned up front and have mentioned in many interviews, CALM has played a big part in the development of FC Not Alone. We believe as a charity they have played a monumental part in reducing the stigma attached to Mental Health. Their work is truly fantastic and it literally saves lives. We look forward to working more with CALM in the future.

Here are some links to check out for CALM’s great work:

CALM Football Hub

Get Help On Guides