25 August 2021

Mental health sports programme wins top award for its ongoing work throughout the pandemic

A sports programme that supports people with mental health conditions using football and other physical activity to reduce social isolation, has won a top award for the second year in a row.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust's Recovery Through Sport programme has been named the winner of the Project of the Year Award at the Gloucestershire Football Association and McDonald's Grassroots Football Awards 2021.

The Recovery Through Sport programme was set up to provide football sessions for those under the care of AWP's Early Intervention in Psychosis team in South Gloucestershire, to improve their mental health through physical activity.

Despite being unable to run the football sessions throughout the lockdown periods of the pandemic, the programme continued online. High profile sporting stars and other celebrities, joined the sessions, to talk about their own their mental health and provide inspiration for the group.

Jacob Kelly, Mental Health Support Worker, who runs the Recovery Through Sport programme, said: "It is an absolute honour to have won this award for a second time. The pandemic put huge pressure on the programme, as many of our attendees rely on the group sessions for social interaction. It's wonderful to receive recognition for the positive efforts we are making to support wellbeing in such a difficult time, and it just goes to show how effective sports and exercise can be for improving mental health."

Josh, who attends the Recovery Through Sport sessions, said: "The online sessions have given me something to look forward to and focus on and helped make me feel more connected. They've given me more confidence in talking in a group situation and a chance to meet inspiring people. The programme has made me feel positive about negative experiences and relieved the shame I felt around talking about my own mental health. Overall, it has been a great insight into these sports stars' lives that I will remember for a long time and take lessons from."

The Gloucestershire Football Association and McDonald's Grassroots Football Award winners were announced at an online event on Wednesday 18th August.

Scott Milne, Football Development Officer for the Gloucestershire Football Association and McDonald's Grassroots Football Awards, said: "The past 18 months have been a very challenging period for football and the wider society. The coronavirus pandemic has affected every single one of us in different ways, through hardships and personal losses. It has been a difficult and unprecedented time in our lives.

"However, it is great we still have the opportunity to be able to celebrate the hard work from all those involved in making grassroots football an environment which is fun, inclusive and enjoyable for all.

"The response from AWP's Recovery Through Sport Programme, in adapting and overcoming the challenges they have been faced with, has been incredible. Everyone from Gloucestershire FA would like to congratulate the programme, for continuing to deliver the Recovery Through Sport online sessions and the positive impact this has had on all those who attend.

"This award is testament to the incredible work being delivered by everyone involved with the AWP programme. We look forward to our continued partnership and further supporting the programme in the future."

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