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New group launches as football project hailed a success

A football group which gives men from across Norfolk “All to Play For” by helping them look after their mental health and emotional wellbeing has proved such a success that a new session is set to launch.

The new group, which is run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) in partnership with Active Norfolk, will meet at the Open Academy in Salhouse Road, Norwich, between 8pm and 9pm from Thursday (2 August).

It will be open to all adult men – both in and out of services – who feel they need extra support with their wellbeing. They will be able to take part in an hour-long game led by a qualified coach before attending an informal drop-in session where they can pick up information and advice from a variety of different support services on subjects such as finance and housing.

The new “All to Play For” group has been launched following the success of existing schemes in Norwich and Great Yarmouth. It has been made possible by funding of £20,000 from NHS Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group, which came in recognition of the contribution the programme is making in achieving positive health outcomes for local people. 

Tracy Williams, Clinical Chair of the CCG said: “The CCG is really pleased to be able to support this great initiative between NSFT and Active Norfolk. We know that men particularly find it hard to talk about how they are feeling and often struggle to seek help when they are low in mood or feeling anxious. This new Open Academy football group will be a safe space for local men to get some positive support, help and exercise too.”

Andy Fisk, Community Mental Health Nurse with NSFT who helps run the sessions, said: “We are delighted to be able to launch our third All to Play For group. By hosting the sessions in the evening, we hope they will appeal to men who are working but could still benefit from some extra support to boost their emotional wellbeing. 

“The sessions which have taken place so far have been hugely successful and have made a real difference to those who come along. Feedback shows they are helping to improve wellbeing, boost low mood and reduce anxiety, while they also offer a valuable opportunity to meet other people and help tackle social isolation.

“One of the things which has become clear from attending the groups is that really valuable peer support networks have developed between the men taking part. They have built connections and recognise when someone is having a down day, and pull together to help pick them up. That is brilliant to see and makes me incredibly proud.” 

Sam Watts, Project Officer with Active Norfolk, said: “It has been really inspiring to see first-hand how the programme has affected people, beyond just physical and mental health. It's made a real difference to people's lives by helping people with employment, building up social confidence, and dealing with other issues like debt and addiction - it really has changed lives.”

Earlier this summer, the project was awarded the “community project of the year” title in the FA Grassroots Football Awards, and will now automatically be considered for a national title by the Football Association.

For more information about All to Play For, or to join a session, contact Sam on 01603 731 564 or by emailing 

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