SOUTHEND fans united to raise funds and awareness of mental health issues in the club’s first ever ‘Match for Mind.’

Blues clash with Yeovil Town was used to encourage those struggling to speak out and seek help.

And Echosport’s Chris Phillips joined Shrimpers fans Sarah Franklin, Scott Wheeler, Charlie Blissett and Robert Askew in walking 22 miles with the matchball to the game and have now raised more than £5,000.


Starting point - the walkers began their journey at Essex Cricket Club

Chris, who is also a trustee for South Essex and Central Mind, said: “We walked from Chelmsford to Southend as that’s exactly the area SECE Mind covers.

“It was a real team effort but hopefully the walk and the game will have helped to raise awareness.

“I know myself that when you’re struggling you can sometimes hide away and keep quiet but that never helps.

“We wanted to get the message across that you’re never alone and hopefully between us all we’ve done that.

“The club have been brilliant so a big thanks must go to them and everyone has been really supportive.

“A massive thank you must also go to everyone who donated on the night and Southend winning was a perfect way to finish the night off.

“I’m normally quite superstitious with these kinds of things, but I’m certainly not walking to every game now.”


Getting ready - Southend United and Yeovil Town’s players both warmed up for the game in SECE Mind t-shirts Pic: FOCUS IMAGES 

The five walkers, who are all members of the Run Free support group, began their walk shortly after 9am at Essex Cricket Club.

The long journey received widespread media coverage to further help in raising awareness.

And walker Charlie Blissett felt the pain endured during the walk had all been worthwhile.

“The walk was very tough,” said Charlie.

“But to be part of raising a great amount of money for SECE Mind was worth it and obviously Blues winning was the cherry on top of the cake.”


Bucket collection - Southend fans donated more than £1,000 at the game Picture: GRAHAM WHITBY-BOOT/SUFC

The Shrimpers released a pre-match video on social media ahead of the game, which featured a number of club legends, to further encourage those struggling to speak out.

Blues boss Kevin Maher also sent messages to the walkers throughout their journey and was also pleased the club helped to launch the initiative.

“It’s something I’m big on at the club and there is a big issue around mental health in this country,” said Maher.

“It’s massively important and I’m delighted the club are involved in it and supporting it in such a way like they are.”


Giving his backing - Blues boss Kevin Maher Pic: GRAHAM WHITBY BOOT/SUFC

The walkers arrived at Roots Hall shortly after 5pm having walked more than 50,000 steps.

Among them was Sarah Franklin who was pleased to play her part.

“When Chris shared his idea of the Match for Mind in partnership with the club I was delighted to put my name forward to help and participate,” said Sarah.

“I hope that we managed to raise the profile of the work SECE Mind carry out but also to really push home that people are never alone and that there are always people available to speak to if they’re struggling.

“The support we received for the walk and the fundraising online and at the game was amazing and we’re so grateful for people’s generosity.”

Both Blues and Yeovil have been sadly affected by mental health issues in the past two years with former captains Chris Barker and Lee Collins both committing suicide.


You’ve been framed - mascot Sammy the Shrimp shows his support    Picture: EDDY COOPER 

The matchday programme paid tribute to them both with touching interviews from past team-mates and both sides warmed up for the game wearing SECE Mind t-shirts, sponsored by MSPFX

And Keeley Hood, SECE Mind’s fundraising officer, was overwhelmed by the support.

“We’re so, so thankful to everyone involved with ‘Match for Mind’,” said Keeley.

“The kindness everyone has shown will help us to run our new early intervention service called ‘Somewhere to Turn.’

“Together we can all make a difference.”

Donations can still be made here