A Newcastle man is about to take on an epic challenge to raise money for a charity he says saved his life.
Magpies fan Josh Banyard first moved to Newcastle five years ago from London. After a failed job offer, the father-of-two suffered with his mental health and sadly contemplated suicide.
After first opening up to the 12th Man – a healthy lifestyle course for men aged 30-65 run by the Newcastle United Foundation – he thanks the club for helping him recover while he giving a new sense of purpose and direction. The Benton resident is now looking to give something back to the foundation while raising awareness of the importance of sharing his mental health struggles.
Read more: Life-saving defibrillator stolen from Blakelaw Building as police investigation begins
Josh explained: “Although I’m a Geordie by blood and spirit, I’m not really from Newcastle. I first moved here about five years ago. I started working with the [Newcastle United Foundation] really by chance. My first six months in the city were incredibly difficult and I had mental health issues.
“It wasn’t a reflection of the city or anything, but rather because I was offered a job, which led to me moving here, which then fell through. The impact of this really affected me and my mental health took a turn for the worse.
“Eventually I fell into the Newcastle United Foundation 12th Man program and shared my story. As a result, I met the most fantastic people and with the support I received I would award him the deserves to have saved my life.
He can’t praise Newcastle United enough following the outpouring of support he has received after admitting he has mental health issues. Determined to help others who might be struggling, the 35-year-old now devotes his time to supporting people through the Newcastle United Foundation’s Be a Game Changer campaign as a support session worker by peers.
The Newcastle United Foundation’s Be A Game Changer program is aimed at men aged 18-44 to help them talk about their well-being. The campaign hosts events to encourage men to talk about their mental health and operates a peer support system on their Facebook page, where people can message for conversation and support from one of their peers.
This weekend Josh, who tries to raise money for the foundation several times a year, will embark on another arduous but, of course, rewarding fundraising challenge in the form of climbing the highest mountains in the world. Scotland, England and Wales (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, respectively) – one after the other. Despite the task ahead, he rose to the challenge.
He said, “It’s an amazing chance to give something back and to spread the word about Be a Game Changer’s work. They saved my life and this is an opportunity to help the campaign continue its work as much as possible and get more funding.
“I guess the most important thing on top of that is the awareness side of things, getting a message out to everyone that it’s okay to open up. I think like in many places the men of Newcastle have Sometimes it’s hard to open up, so it’s about letting them know it’s a good thing to do.
“For me, none of this is about personal gain. In fact, it’s about raising awareness where I can – not only about the importance of opening up, but also about the work that Be a Game Changer has done in the community.”
Josh will take on the challenge alongside a friend who he says has been invaluable to him during his training for the famous hike. This, despite injuries and knocks along the way, including Josh’s knee tendonitis at one point.
He explained: “We’ve been training for this for months and we’ve really held our own. We’re at a point where we’ve pushed ourselves and we really want to go for it.
“The support from Newcastle fans and locals has been amazing as you would expect. They always support the club and fellow fans through thick and thin and they have been no different with that.
Josh’s heroism comes after recognition from Newcastle United in the form of the United as One award. He received the prestigious honor at a ceremony hosted by BBC Sport presenter Gabby Logan and attended by Toon owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, a feat of which he remains immensely proud.
He added: “The event was amazing, the owners were so welcoming and friendly and really embraced me and what I had achieved in the community using the campaign as a catalyst for so much of my work. was an absolute honor to win the United as One award and then be named Ambassador of the Year a few weeks later was amazing and a humbling honor because I’m the one who should be honoring the foundation and the campaign for me saved.”
You can donate to Josh’s fundraiser on his JustGiving page by following the link here. You can also follow him on Twitter for more updates here.