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Successful group proves there's "All to Play For"

​A special football group designed to give men from across Norfolk “All to Play For” is set to return early next year following a successful pilot which helped those taking part build confidence and self-esteem and improve their emotional wellbeing.

The free “All to Play For” sessions, which are run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) in partnership with Active Norfolk and the Premier Foundation, will relaunch on Wednesday 10 January following a 12-week pilot in the autumn.

Open to all adult men who feel they need extra support with their wellbeing, the sessions give participants the chance to take part in an hour-long game led by a qualified coach. They can then attend an informal drop-in session and pick up information and advice from a variety of different support services on subjects such as finance and housing.

The sessions have been arranged as part of NSFT’s Men’s Wellbeing Project, which aims to help men take better care of their mental health and improve their access to services. It gives men the chance to play alongside mental health staff, with the aim of breaking down barriers between service users and professionals so they can work together more closely.

John Palmer, who has struggled with depression and took part in the autumn sessions, said: “The course is the highlight of my week. I really look forward to getting together with a bunch of guys, playing football and just having a laugh. The course gives me the chance to do something which makes me happy.”

John Daniels, who also took part during the autumn, said: “The group gives you the chance to meet a great bunch of lads all in similar circumstances. I’ve had a pretty tough time of it and have been out of work, had depression and bipolar and anxiety, so it’s great to have this opportunity to come once a week, keep fit and have positive people behind you and no pressure.

“I really appreciate this opportunity to help build confidence, keep me positive – hopefully there’s a great future for me and the other guys as well.

“My message to other people who is struggling is you can get help – there are people who will support you and help you along the way. It’s not easy but keep strong and you’ll get there eventually if you believe in yourself and keep trying.”

Andy Fisk, a Community Mental Health Nurse with NSFT, said: “We were delighted that the sessions we ran over the autumn were so popular and made such a difference to those who came along. The feedback we received from those taking part showed is that the sessions were helping improve their wellbeing, boost low mood and reduce anxiety, while they also offered a valuable opportunity to meet other people and help tackle social isolation.

“We are really pleased that Active Norfolk is able to continue funding the sessions and look forward to kicking off the second phase of the project and continuing to break down the stigma which is still often associated with mental ill health.”

Any man aged 18 or over is welcome to come to the group, which takes place at Football Development Centre in Bowthorpe, Norwich, beginning on Wednesday 10 January at 1pm.

NSFT and Active Norfolk is hoping to introduce further sessions in Thetford and Great Yarmouth later in the spring.

To watch a short film about the project, visit

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