“A men’s football peer support group helps me thrive” – James’ story
James talks about attending a peer support group for men who enjoy playing football and struggle with mental health issues. He reflects on how his physical health has improved, the value of peer support and the friendships he’s made along the way.
Back in 2019, I was a very anxious and depressed man in his late twenties, having suffered from psychosis a few years back. I was struggling to get my life back together, I had put on weight from taking medication and my confidence and self-esteem were at an all-time low.
Then one week, my care coordinator suggested that I try out a football group ran by a local charity (Watford FC’s Community, Sport and Education Trust). It’s called ‘Man On’ for men over 18 who suffer with their mental health. It involves a friendly kickabout, as well as peer support from not only the coaches, but the participants.
I now try and attend the session once per week, because it gives me an enormous boost every time I take part. I am now in much better physical shape and I owe a lot of that to taking part in Man On.
I have schizoaffective disorder and so do a few of the others, so it is great to know we are in it together!
I’ve made some great friends from the group too. We occasionally socialise outside of the sessions, which usually takes the form of watching football at a sports bar, going to the cinema, and even going to see one of the Watford FC matches at their home stadium.
Unfortunately, I suffered a relapse at the end of 2019 but the guys from Man On were beyond supportive. The coaches even said to my partner and my mum to contact them if they needed anything, which we all really appreciated and was a nice touch (pardon the football pun).
The boys are there for the highs and lows. Last year, I even asked their opinion about the front cover of my upcoming first book, Befriending My Brain, as the publisher gave me a couple of choices. Then this year, when I shared with them I wanted to produce the audiobook version but didn’t have the equipment or expertise, one of the lads said we could do this at his house, as he had all of the gear from previously recording music!
I now try and attend the session once per week, because it gives me an enormous boost every time I take part.
We have a WhatsApp group and I feel very blessed to have a platform where I can share if I’m ever struggling, and also give out advice if any of the other members are going through a hard time. Some of us have the same mental health conditions, for example, I have schizoaffective disorder and so do a few of the others, so it is great to know we are in it together!
I would encourage anyone to try out one of your local physical activity groups. You can be surprised with the amount of benefits they provide; they often become an important part of maintaining your mental wellbeing.
Rethink Mental Illness are part of the We Are Undefeatable campaign which aims to get people living with long-term health conditions taking part in physical activity. Do you live with a long-term health condition? Find ways to get moving for you on the We Are Undefeatable website.
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