A weekly socially inclusive drop-in football programme for men struggling with poor mental health has made a significant and positive impact on the lives of participants. At each session, mental health professionals and local support services are present to offer assistance and guidance for those who want to access it.
Now Active Norfolk is looking to roll out the sessions across the county to give more men the chance to benefit from judgement-free fun activity sessions while providing access to vital mental health support services at the same.
When Active Norfolk was approached by the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) about the need to bridge the gap between men suffering with mental health problems and the services that are available to them, Active Norfolk devised a programme that would offer free football drop-in sessions for men with poor mental health while giving attendees access to vital support services they may not have been aware of.
For those who have been able to attend All To Play For so far, the impact it has made on their lives has been significant, with participants almost universally reporting an upturn in personal confidence which has, in many cases, led to other positive lifestyle changes.
The programme has benefited from the involvement of a number of local organisations including the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust(NSFT), The Football Development Centre, provided by the Norfolk FA and the Premier Foundation.
While the success of the programme has been a lifeline for many men with mental health problems in Norfolk, there is still work to do. Active Norfolk is committed to rolling out the programme across the County to give more men with mental health problems access to fun and inclusive activity sessions and important support services.
Active Norfolk Project Officer, Sam Watts, recently won FA Community Project of the Year at the FA Local Grassroots Football Awards which recognise the work of individuals and groups who have made a difference through football in the local area.
Sam Watts said: "I'm so happy to win this award. I didn't expect it at all actually. NSFT has been working so hard alongside us to get this off the ground so I'm really pleased with the impact it's had. It has been completely inspiring to see first-hand how it's affected people, beyond just physical and mental health, it's made a real difference to people's lives by helping people with employment - it really has changed their lives.
"In the future I'd like to see this programme become available countywide. I'd like to see the model become available to women too. At the moment All To Play For relies on people liking football and there will be plenty of people out there who don't like football so I'd like to create a similar programme with a different activity. I know it sounds a bit cliché but projects like this is why you get up and come to work every day to see the difference it can make to people."
Andy Fisk, Community Mental Health Nurse with NSFT who helps run the sessions, said: "We were delighted to hear that we'd been successful in these prestigious awards.
"The sessions which have taken place so far have been hugely successful and have made a real difference to those who come along. Feedback shows they are helping to improve wellbeing, boost low mood and reduce anxiety, while they also offer a valuable opportunity to meet other people and help tackle social isolation.
"Our Norwich group has been running for the longest, and one of the things which has become clear over the weeks is that really valuable peer support networks have developed between the men taking part. They have built connections and recognise when someone is having a down day, and pull together to help pick them up. That is brilliant to see and makes me incredibly proud.
What participants said:
"Overall, I’ve enjoyed the “All to Play For” sessions. I’ve found it lifts my mood and allows me to be social once a week. I found the course has lifted my confidence but there’s still a way to go."
"Doing this has encouraged me to go to the gym twice a week and football two more times. It all started here. I’ve loved making new friends and socialising. I’m currently in hospital on a section so I don’t really get the chance to do so a lot. My mental state is more positive due to this group, it gives me something to look forward to and gives me a sense of purpose."
"I am a clinical support worker working in the Community Mental Health Early Intervention Team. It has helped service users build confidence and I feel the session helps to reduce barriers and stigma related to mental health. The session provides so much enjoyment. It doesn’t matter what are our backgrounds, job roles, abilities, it is just a group of men all doing something they love and all are equal."
For more information on this project contact Sam Watts using the information below
Sam Watts : Telephone 01603 731 564