Everton forward Bernard was the guest of honour as Everton in the Community [EitC] hosted its National Mental Health Football Championships on Thursday's World Mental Health Day.

Seventeen teams from across the country competed in the annual competition at Netherton's Goals Soccer Centre.

The tournament was overseen by EitC's Health & Wellbeing manager Johnnie Garside and featured a number of players from the charity's Imagine Your Goals programme, with Club Ambassadors Graham Stuart and Ian Snodin on hand to present medals.

Bernard made a surprise visit during the tournament, hearing the stories of EitC's Imagine Your Goals participants before the Brazilian went pitchside to watch the action.


Imagine Your Goals [IYG] uses football as a device for participants to tackle mental health issues, providing a tangible support network and combating loneliness and social isolation.

The programme is funded by SportPesa, Everton's Principal Partner, which became an Official Partner of EitC earlier this year. SportPesa's financial support kept IYG running after Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust had to withdraw funding due to budget cuts.

Dave McCormack joined IYG six weeks ago and played in this year's tournament.

"I had a mental health breakdown in March and was taking cocaine seven days a week, coupled with alcohol," McCormack told evertontv.

"I was given a place in rehab in Runcorn and was there six months.

"I left six weeks ago and here I am now.

"It is the camaraderie which helps, if I lost a game of football in the past it would ruin my day but now I can laugh it off because I am with people who understand me and my illness and don't judge me.

"I had to drag myself here this morning because my mental health has been quite bad in the past week... but I knew I would feel even worse if I did not come.

"I could have been lying in my bed feeling sorry I missed this day.

"But it has been brilliant, it has still been challenging but it has been worth it."

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