Coping Through Football, an innovative project that helps people with mental health problems to get their lives back on track, was commended by The Football Association on reaching its 10-year anniversary at a special ceremony at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday 18 April.
Chairman of The Football Association Greg Clarke and the London Director of Public Health England Professor Yvonne Doyle were present to add their congratulations to the project which demonstrates how the benefits of football can extend well beyond the pitch to have an impact on public health and social inclusion.
Conceived by the charity London Playing Fields Foundation, and delivered in partnership with NELFT and Leyton Orient Trust in four London boroughs, the project provides a service with a difference using football to improve the lives of one of society’s most marginalised groups. With suicide being the leading cause of death of men aged 15-49 and one in four people having at least one diagnosable mental health issue per year, there is a real need to provide more than medication as a treatment intervention. The project, which delivers six sessions a week for fifty weeks a year, uses the power of football to improve participants’ physical health, increase self-esteem and confidence, reinvigorate social skills, reduce their reliance on tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs and ultimately help them to lead more independent lives.
Over the last ten years the results have been remarkable. In the last year alone 27 participants completed education courses, 16 entered full or part-time employment and three undertook volunteering roles. One commented:
“Before I came to the project I didn't really have any friends, just my family. Now I've made friends with people here and we keep in touch outside of the group. I feel that I'm physically fitter, I've got confident and I can talk to anyone now. I was unemployed for 7 years and have now got myself a full time paid job.”
(Pictured above are: Michael Winspear, Bob Edwards, Sonia Smith, Sue Boon and Barbara Armstrong)
Sue Boon, NELFT Integrated Care Director for Waltham Forest, said: “It was a fantastic event and demonstrated to a wider audience what amazing work Coping Through Football does. The outcomes for patients are significantly improved and it was great to see the video of service users and their families singing the service’s praises. Barbara Armstrong and Sonia Smith deserve so much credit for leading the NELFT side of the partnership. It was wonderful to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the project and long may it continue.”
Alex Welsh, Chief Executive of London Playing Fields Foundation said: “The success of Coping Through Football highlights the importance of having a multi-agency approach in transforming and improving community mental health services. The thing that people experiencing mental health issues want more than anything, is to get their old lives back and Coping Through Football has shown how this can be achieved.”
For more information about the project, visit their NELFT website page at: www.nelft.nhs.uk/coping-through-football
Leyton Orient is offering an incentive for NHS staff on season tickets for 2018/19. A discount of up to £100 is available for NHS staff, as well as emergency workers, the armed forces and Waltham Forest council employees. Information is available on their website at: www.leytonorient.com/tickets/season-tickets