An innovative group which helps men to tackle mental health issues by giving them "All to Play For" has brought football home to Norfolk after winning a top FA award.
The "All to Play For" initiative, which is spearheaded by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) in partnership with Active Norfolk and the Premier Foundation, has been named as 'community project of the year' in the FA Grassroots Football Awards. An FA judging panel will now meet to shortlist national finalists from the pool of county FA recipients, with the winners announced at the 2018 FA Community Shield on 5 August.
All to Play For was piloted in Norwich last year, and proved such a success that the sessions now also take place in Great Yarmouth. They are designed to help build confidence and self-esteem in men who feel they need extra support with their wellbeing by giving them the chance to take part in an hour-long game led by a qualified coach.
Participants can also attend an informal drop-in session after the game and pick up information and advice from a variety of different support services on subjects such as finance and housing.
The sessions take place 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.
Andy Fisk (pictured), Community Mental Health Nurse with NSFT who helps run the sessions, said: "We were delighted to hear that we'd been successful in these prestigious awards.
"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.
"Our Norwich group has been running for the longest, and one of the things which has become clear over the weeks 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."
John Palmer, who has struggled with depression and took part in sessions last autumn, 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."
Sam Watts, Project Officer with Active Norfolk, said: "I'm so happy to win this award. NSFT has been working so hard alongside us to get this off the ground so I'm really pleased with the impact it's had. It has been completely inspiring to see first-hand how it's affected people, beyond just physical and mental health, it's made a real difference to people's lives by helping people with employment – it really has changed their lives."
For more information about All to Play For, or to join a session, contact Sam on 01603 731564 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about NSFT's Men's Wellbeing Project, click here.
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