Every year, the 10th of October is recognised as Mental Health Day. In grassroots football, many coaches, players, referees and volunteers can be affected by mental health in their lifetime. Governing bodies of sport, such as Hampshire FA and The Football Association, aims to tackle the stigma relating to mental health.
‘One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any year. Over 10% of the population have depression at any one time. There are millions of people involved in grassroots football, right now, with mental health problems.’
Sport can help in people’s recovery, help to manage symptoms and can radically improve the quality of people’s lives. Whether it’s in mainstream, community football clubs, or in specialised sport and mental health projects, football can deliver massive benefits.’ The Football Association
Hampshire FA help promote mental well-being on a weekly basis using football sessions as a tool to help to break down and tackle the stigma, prejudice and discrimination that surrounds mental health. We promote social inclusion and allow participants to play the nations favourite game in an environment where they feel comfortable expressing themselves, free from judgement. Players who have attended our sessions have displayed radical improvements in their day-to-day lives as they become active, social and learn to re-establish life skills that transcend football and aid in their long-term recovery. For more information on sessions in Hampshire that aim to improve mental well-being, please contact Glenn Brailey.
Hampshire FA also hosted a two-day Youth Mental First Aid course on 7th and 8th October at the Winklebury Football Complex in Basingstoke. Mental Health First Aid is an educational course which teaches people how to identify, understand and help a person who may be experiencing a mental health issue. In the same way as we learn physical first aid, Mental Health First Aid teaches you how to recognise those crucial warning signs of mental ill health.
The course led to Mental Health First Aider status, 3 of whom were Hampshire FA Staff: Designated Safeguarding Officer, Ian Binks, Safeguarding Administrator, Connor Gates and Business Support Officer, Neil Moss. 9 participants on the course were either County Welfare Officers or YLWO’s from member clubs in Hampshire.
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Hampshire FA spoke to local club, Victory Hants, who offer inclusive sport and leisure activities to participants. They ‘offer inclusive sporting and leisure opportunities to individuals aged 14+ with a history of homelessness, mental health or in recovery from substance misuse issues, learning disabilities, physically unabled, visually/hearing impaired and LGBT in order to raise confidence, build self-esteem and to engage with community learning opportunities, training, work trials or volunteering opportunities to achieve self-sustainable, self-reliant futures.’
Victory Hants are an example of how grassroots football setups support participants in their mental health.
‘Attending Victory Hants has helped my mood as if I wasn’t involved then I’d be depressed. I have wanted to be part of a footy team for years. I wished I could have done it when I had my school or college years but I felt that because nobody picked me to be in their team at school, I would be alone and feel isolated because I didn’t know how to interact with others properly, but now I have learnt to with the help of my Coach.’ Autistic Female Player (age 23)
A mother and carer of a 21 year-old disabled man playing football at Victory Hants said ‘Victory Hants has given my son something to look forward to each week, a safe haven where he is never judged, and has made so many friends whether he is well enough to play or not whether a game has to be stopped they give him dignity and time to recover. With a disability that doesn’t fit into any category, it’s always been so hard to find anywhere for him to go and fit in.'
By continuing to grow environments where players, coaches, referees and volunteers feel comfortable and safe in, people can be more open about their mental well-being. Addressing the discrimination and stigma that can be associated with mental health conditions is important in sport and wider society.
If you or someone you know is suffering with mental health and need help, please see the links below:
Mental Health Foundation