08 June 2020

Professional footballers and comedian help mental health trust provide boost for patients during COVID-19 pandemic

Jacob On Skype Cropped

Staying connected is one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing and is an important way to look after your mental health, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This Men's Health Week (Monday 15th to Sunday 21st June) Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust is highlighting the importance of keeping in touch with friends and family during this time.

The Trust's Early Intervention in Psychosis Team in South Gloucestershire, which until lockdown began was running weekly football sessions as part of its Recovery Through Sport programme, has enlisted the help of Bristol comedian Russell Howard and a number of professional and former sporting stars as part of its work to keep in touch with the group.

The Trust has invited a number of celebrities including former England football players Shaun Wright-Phillips and Carlton Cole, Walsall Footballer Club player James Clarke, former premier league footballer and professional boxer Leon McKenzie and West Ham lady's captain Gilly Flaherty, and Paralympian Lauren Steadman to take part in its weekly digital catch up sessions with the Recovery Through Sport group.

They have been talking to the group about their own mental health and wellbeing, and answering questions from the Recovery Through Sport group members.

Mental Health Worker, Jacob Kelly, who runs the Recovery Through Sport sessions at AWP, said: "We were very aware that many of the people who were attending the football sessions on a weekly basis were going to find lockdown and isolating difficult. Many of our attendees rely on the group sessions for social interaction and we knew that without it they would feel even more isolated than usual. We contacted the sporting stars and asked if they'd be happy to join the sessions and talk to the group about their experiences of mental health and wellbeing . Never did I imagine that I would secure so many high profile guests to take part."

The Recovery Through Sport sessions were set up to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of people with mental health conditions. Before lockdown the group had been meeting weekly to play football, make contact with others and talk about their mental health.

Josh, who attends the Recovery Through Sport sessions, said: "I have found the RTS digital sessions very helpful and enjoyable. It has been interesting to hear from both male and female professional footballers. They have talked about their stories and experiences and also how they have managed difficulties in terms of their own mental health. Overall I feel like the sessions are having a positive effect on me. Sometimes I can feel anxious about joining the chat initially but once the sessions are up and running I feel fine. When it is finished, I am always pleased that I have done it and I always feel like my mood has been lifted. Not only does it have a good effect on my mood, but I have also noticed that I now look forward to when the next session is. I therefore feel like the sessions are having a really positive effect on my mental health and they are helping me get through this difficult time." 

Jacob continued: "This Men's Health Week we are encouraging men who may be struggling with their mental health to connect with someone and have a conversation about how they are feeling. We'd also encourage women who are worried about their male friends, family and loved ones to start a conversation about mental health, it might just save a life."

The weekly sessions also provide the chance for AWP staff to check in with the Recovery Through Sport group members and to provide support where needed.

The five ways to wellbeing are:

-          Connect with people

-          Be active

-          Learn new skills

-          Give to others

-          Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)

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