At the entrance to Earlestown cricket ground, a white banner flutters across the fence and acts like a symbol of surrender, where people come to lay down their woes.
Held up by cable ties, the banner states in bold, black letters: “Suicide prevention through cricket”.
Described as a hub in the community, Earlestown Cricket Club, near St Helens, is more than just about sport.
It’s a haven for men, and women, to come together to talk about their problems, build friendships and make a difference in the area.
There were 362 registered suicide deaths in Merseyside, between 2018 and 2020, and according to the Samaritans, in England, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women.
Alongside this factor, the NHS spent £14.3 billion on mental health services in 2020 and 2021, which was allocated to 14.8% of their overall spending.
Arguably, mental health is becoming one of the most important areas that impact our lives.
Earlestown Cricket Club
The historic Earlestown CC was founded in 1882 and is captained by Karl Allan, who said: “We come together through a common love of playing cricket.”
The reason we come is for cricket, it’s not necessarily about mental health – that is a part of it – but we’re here to help our members.”
Merseynewslive spoke to Karl on a Saturday when the club was raising money for Motor Neurone Disease, which had afflicted Karl’s uncle who sadly passed away from the disease.
The club opens its doors to several causes, such as Christmas Toy appeals, volunteering with autistic children, and donating items to the local food bank every month.
Karl said: “The focal point is the cricket club – they’re all cricketers, and it’s my job to get results as Captain of the Cricket team, but the community aspect means more to me.
“This is home to me. It’s an extension of my home.”
Karl and members of the team took part in a training course called Hub of Hope and became ambassadors for Opening Up, which is an NGO dedicated to saving men’s lives through cricket.
The charity was founded in 2014 after the death of Sefton Park CC wicket keeper Alex Miller, who took his own life the evening before a game.
David Sherer, who has suffered from depression, came along to help with the upkeep of Earlestown’s cricket ground and to be around people, where he describes there are a lot of open ears down here.
After taking part in Opening Up’s training session, David and a few of his other team members became aware of what to look out for in someone who is suffering from mental health issues.
“They look fine on the outside but then they might go a bit quiet, so you say ‘You alright lad, do you want to have a talk?’
“We get them talking and find out what’s on their mind.”
As an ambassador of Opening Up, Karl said: “One guy lost his dad, and he’s been really affected so we’ve centred around that to help him and to get him out the house.”
“There was also a postman who was in hospital because of his mental health after he lost his job – he’s fine now, but his mental health went really down.”
Karl added: “He became a member of the club; he doesn’t play but he enjoys watching and he absolutely loves it, and he said to me, it feels like we saved his life.”
As the community is at the heart of the cricket club, it draws people in and welcomes new players, as well as those who want to sit on the side lines.
Will Derrick, who is from Somerset, moved to Earlestown 18 months ago and played cricket as a boy.
“I used to coach kids and they’d say cricket was boring. I’d say if you find cricket boring, you’re playing it wrong.
“It’s a mental game, but it’s different – you forget about everything else.”
Earlestown CC is more than a cricket club, and according to David, there’s always time for a brew every Saturday after a game.