29 July 2020

Former Bristol Rovers player takes on new ambassador role for mental health sports programme

James Clarke Final

A former Bristol Rovers player is supporting an NHS sporting programme, which helps prevent people from becoming socially isolated, and uses physical exercise to improve mental health.

James Clarke, who played for The Gas between 2015 and 2019 and is currently captain at Walsall Football Club, has become a new volunteer ambassador for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust and the Recovery Through Sport programme.

The programme, which is run by the Trust's Early Intervention in Psychosis Team in South Gloucestershire, was set up to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of people with mental health conditions.

The volunteer ambassador role involves helping to support the programme by raising awareness of its work, attending events and encouraging others to get involved. James will also attend the group to meet the participants and staff who run the sessions, as well using his footballing skills to deliver one of the sessions in the future.

James said: "I'm delighted to be an ambassador for such a great programme, it's something I think everyone can relate to and I'm happy to just be involved as much as I can be. I've experienced mental health issues, as I'm sure everyone has, but many people don't speak about it and I feel this programme gives the platform for people to talk about their experiences. The impact sport can have on a person's mental health is massive."

Jacob Kelly, Mental Health Support Worker, who runs the Recovery Through Sport programme, said: "We are really pleased to have James on board as a volunteer ambassador. He is extremely supportive of the work we are doing to tackle social isolation among those with mental health conditions and we are looking forward to him joining us for a training session in the future and to have his support at our events."

Before lockdown the Recovery Through Sport sessions had been taking place weekly with the participants meeting to play football, make contact with others and talk about their mental health. But during the COVID-19 pandemic the group has kept in touch using online sessions, with guest appearances from a number of athletes and celebrities.

The Recovery Through Sport sessions take place every Thursday between 3pm and 4.30pm via an online platform at this time. For more information or to find out how to get involved call 07785 342 192.

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