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Football group celebrates 30 years of success

A football group which gives people recovering from mental ill health the chance to boost their physical fitness while socialising and making new friends is celebrating its 30th birthday.

The group, which is run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), meets twice weekly at Inspire Suffolk, and is open to people who are 18+ and of all abilities who are receiving care from the Trust.

It has proved hugely popular over the years, with one player attending for all three decades and several others taking part for more than 20 years. Feedback is also consistently good, with members praising the group for helping to boost their social life and give them more confidence.

“The group is really well-attended by people who are receiving treatment at Foxhall House and The Woodlands and service users living in the community,” said Andy Harding, Technical Instructor with NSFT who set up the group in 1989. “It ticks a lot of boxes as physical wellbeing is so closely linked to mental wellbeing. The group helps people to manage both while also giving them the chance to enjoy themselves.

“Over the years we have seen people’s physical fitness, mental wellbeing and confidence improve, with some going on to complete educational programmes and FA coaching courses. We also get to know the members really well, so notice if there are signs they may need some extra support with their mental health and can alert their care co-ordinator so that action can be taken.

“Some members of the group have developed really strong friendships over the years, and will visit the cinema together, go out for meals and even go on holiday. It is making a real difference by helping people develop the social networks which are vital for good mental health. They support each other when they have bad days, which is great to see and a really positive spin-off from the group.”

Service users who attend the group have given excellent feedback, with one saying: “The football group is enjoyable for me because being a 37-year-old man with my 24-year-old heart and head helps my fitness and progress and is therapeutic. The young men and all of us from the low secure unit feel welcome and accepted and that is something I have never experienced through most of my life, so I strive to go week in, week out.”

A second service user added: “I have found the football group to be very welcoming, with many warm and sociable members. I always have a wonderful rapport with everyone, as well as cracking banter.”

A third said: “I have been attending the group for 20 years and I have made many good friends and it has helped with my physical fitness and diabetes control.”

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