Football helps people with mental health problems

During Mental Health Awareness Week, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and the FAW Trust ran a celebratory showcase of the We Wear the Same Shirt (WWtSS) programme at the Dragon Park national football development centre.

©FAW

During Mental Health Awareness Week (13–19 May), the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and the FAW Trust ran a celebratory showcase of the We Wear the Same Shirt (WWtSS) programme at the Dragon Park national football development centre.

The nationwide WWtSS programme involves the delivery of comprehensive, unique, weekly football sessions for those experiencing mental ill health, while aiming to combat the stigma of mental health.

The programme, which has been running since 2015, provides a safe and empathetic environment, using football as a tool to encourage people with mental health problems to exercise and socialise with others in clubs across Wales.

The inclusive initiative has most recently expanded to include seven clubs running WWtSS sessions thanks to an increase in funding from the UEFA HatTrick assistance programme. The seven teams are attached to semi-pro or professional clubs, including Swansea City, Newport County, Cardiff Met, Cambrian & Clydach BGC, Wrexham, Newtown and Haverfordwest County.

At the showcase event, WWtSS project leader Chris Foot said that participants' stories have been staggering, with some saying the project had saved their lives. WWtSS participant Luke Martin explained how the programme had given him a positive attitude not just towards football and how to play the game, but towards life itself.

Further information on the programme, as well as interviews with WWtSS participants, can be found in episode 17 of the second series of the Welsh football magazine web show, FC Cymru, available on the FA Wales channels.

This article appeared originally in UEFA Direct 185

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