Katie Startup: Charlton goalkeeper wears number 40 shirt to raise suicide awareness

Katie Startup
Katie Startup's Charlton are eighth in English women's football's second tier

When a first-choice goalkeeper isn't wearing the number one shirt, it usually catches the eye, but Katie Startup has a unique and powerful reason for choosing number 40.

The Charlton Athletic Women stopper wants to raise awareness of the World Health Organisation's statistic that one person dies around the world every 40 seconds through suicide.

"That's harrowing. It really struck a chord with me," the 20-year-old told BBC Sport.

"It's so traditional for a goalkeeper to wear number one so, by changing to 40, I wanted to bring up the conversation surrounding mental health issues in society today.

"I've had people close to me who have suffered and I've seen first hand some of the work that goes on to help people with this issue.

"I wanted to raise awareness because - before my first experience of this through a close friend of mine - it had previously kind of passed me by.

"I didn't know the figures were that high. It's made me more aware, and more sensitive."

'We're all under one umbrella'

The former Chelsea youngster says she has received support "even from fans of rival teams" of the Addicks, who host Aston Villa in the Women's Championship on Saturday.

Charlton usually play their home games at The Oakwood in Kent but have chosen to play at The Valley, their men's team's ground, against Villa and they are hoping over 1,000 fans will attend.

Such a turnout would be the largest since the club reformed in 2007 and would exceed last season's average for the women's top flight, one tier above the league Charlton play in.

"It's such a nice occasion for the women's team," Startup added. "It's a nice way to bring the club all together.

"We're all one club under the umbrella of Charlton. Hopefully it's going to be a really good event."

Earlier this season, Women's Super League clubs Bristol City, Chelsea, Manchester City and West Ham United all hosted games at their men's team's traditional homes, breaking attendance records.

"As players, we absolutely love it, because the grounds, facilities and atmosphere are incredible," Startup continued.

"The barrier that's always been in the way has been people saying 'there's not a demand for it, you won't fill the stands' but those recent matches have drawn massive crowds, so there is a demand for it."

If you or someone you know has been affected by a mental health issue, help and support is available at bbc.co.uk/actionline

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women's sport available to watch across the BBC in 2019, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women's sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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