MP for Warwick and Leamington Chris White recently visited a project delivered by Sky Blues in the Community that is helping mental health services reach men who don't usually access the care they need.
Coventry City Football Club's community scheme, mental health services run by the NHS, and national charity Rethink in Coventry and Warwickshire have set up the project, which is designed to offer health advice, access to community services and social support.
Every week for 12 weeks, a group of men who use the mental health services across the area meet at Warwick District Council's St Nicholas Park sports centre. The sessions are delivered by the Sky Blues scheme with support from Rethink and the NHS, and were made possible thanks to grant funding awarded by Warwick District Council's community grant panel. Running alongside the football sessions are workshops that include advice on accessing support services, diet, and health and fitness.
Mental health services worker Andy John, from Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, explained: "We'd been working with a number of guys in the area, but were finding it difficult to get them to consistently access the service.
"Football is a great way to bring people together, and sometimes gives us a better chance of working with people who haven't accessed mental health services before."
Rethink's Henry Webster added: "Overcoming mental illness is to do with setting goals, valuing yourself and your skills, all things that this project encourages from start to finish. It complements really well the other services we offer in the Warwick and Leamington area."
David Busst, from Sky Blues in the Community, said: "This has proved a very successful and popular project. We are about to embark on a far wider programme of health work in the Warwick area, so this really helps create a comprehensive portfolio of health schemes in this area.
"It's great to see this group come together as the sessions have gone on. We hope there will be more in the future."
Alvin, one of the players at the sessions, explained: "This is great for my fitness, helps with my football too and then there's the social side. It works all round."
Fellow player, Mandeep added: "I used to play every day but things weren't working out for me and I'd stopped playing. This project is really good and has helped me get things back on track."
Chris White, MP for Warwick and Leamington, said: "There is still a powerful stigma that attaches to mental illness unfortunately, so the more ways there are to encourage people to get the help they need, the better.
"It is good to see this innovative approach being taken by local agencies working together."
For more information on the project, please contact Hiedi Sloan on 02476786313 or email@example.com.
Health is one of the key themes of The Football League Trust, alongside Sport, Education and Inclusion. The support of health projects like this is an instrumental part of The Trust's ability to engage with 50,000 participants annually around this theme.