READ: Andy “Beefy” Burgess on Softball and Mental Health

4
Feb
2021

admin

Today is Time to Talk Day in the UK, and we're helping to get conversations started about mental health. As the official Time to Talk website states, "We know that the more conversations we have, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down, helping to end the isolation, shame and worthlessness that too many of us with mental health problems are made to feel." For more information on Time to Talk Day, click here.

Andrew "Beefy" Burgess from the Southsea Sharks answered our call asking for individuals and teams to talk about mental health and how baseball & softball have helped. Below is the story he provided, unedited.

Back in 2018 we sadly lost a teammate of ours who, unbeknown to any of us, had been struggling with mental health issues. Ed Wakeman had been a regular player with the Southsea Sharks for over 6 years and always turned up to play with a smile on his face and a willingness to try his best. He seemed to have a naturally polite and quiet sort of personality which we all simply took at face value. I'm sure most teams tend to have a real mix of personalities on their roster - ranging from the overly loud & confident player through to the more quiet & reserved one - and that has always been one of the more appealing factors to joining a recreational softball team. Everyone accepts each other and we all enjoy getting to play the game we love together. But can it - or should it - be more than that?

Speaking as both Ed's teammate and also his team captain, I have to admit to experiencing an overriding feeling of guilt after he passed away due to the fact that I had never really got to know him. Those of us who attended his funeral service were all slightly surprised to hear about his life outside of softball...and none of us were truly aware of the shocking facts behind the 'silent epidemic' of male suicide.

Soon afterwards, we as a team decided to make a positive effort to openly discuss mental health issues with each other and also help to promote those charities who deal with these issues across society as a whole. For the rest of that season we wore a special orange shirt (turns out Ed was a die-had Wolves fan) with the Samaritans logo & contact details printed on the back. We also created a special 'EW #49' patch which we will now continue to wear on all of our future team shirts. The Solent League held a special charity indoor tournament where all the money raised was donated towards our local branch of Samaritans (did you know that each individual branch has to raise its own funds!) and then at the end of the season Ed was posthumously inducted into our own 'SSL Hall Of Fame' (see bottom).

Since then, and especially relevant during these Covid lockdowns, we have all made a conscious team effort to stay in contact with each other. With no actual softball to help bring us together in person, we have found ourselves utilising social media and other online portals to simply reach out to each other.

  • We've had team quizzes on Kahoot & Zoom 
  • Every Friday one of our players posts a 'tune' on our WhatsApp group to help get us ready for the weekend
  • Everyone gets a 'happy birthday' announcement on our team Facebook group
  • Our own Strava club page has been set up for those players who enjoy running/cycling/walking etc.
  • We even managed to get a 25th anniversary team photo taken . . . albeit remotely (see below).

So whilst I think we can all agree that physically playing softball is good for our mental health, it's also proved to be - especially in our case - an opportunity for people to just look out for one another, both on and off the field.

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by mental health issues, Samaritans is available 24/7/365 to help by calling 116 123.

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