Managing mental health through football

Local branches of Mind charity are using sport and activity to help those experiencing mental health problems

One of our major projects is delivered by Mind in Bradford, where we’ve invested £10,000 in order to provide weekly football sessions for up to 50 people.

The two-hour training sessions are very popular – and two five-a-side teams have been entered into the local West Riding Disability Football League. One of the teams has even achieved third place in their first-ever league championship.

Learning new skills

One person taking part is Gerald Ashfield, 54, who experiences anxiety and stress resulting in anger issues. He also has high blood pressure.

In September 2016, Gerald began weekly football training and took part in five-a-side matches.

“It made me more focused through learning new skills,” says Gerald.

The training introduced discipline within the group and has helped me address my own anger management issues

Gerald, 54

At first, many of the people attending were reluctant to join in formal training, but they gradually became more interested as they witnessed the success of the sessions.

Gerald adds: “The training introduced discipline within the group and this helped address my own anger management issues.”

Building confidence

As he developed his football skills, he became more confident and the whole team began to bond.

The team perform a traditional “high five” after scoring a goal – something that Gerald is very proud of. He also volunteers for the club, helping to organise the travel and refreshments for team matches, washing and giving out the team kit and organising matches and tactics by getting the squad together.

This, he says, has increased his confidence in social activities and he now encourages new attendees to join the football sessions.

Not only has it helped his mental health, he’s also benefitting physically and has been inspired to do more exercise throughout the week.

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