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An Excellent “Mental Health & Football” Seminar at Lancashire FA

It was with great pleasure today that I attended a seminar at Lancashire FA Headquarters in Leyland, hosted in the newly-refurbished Sir Tom Finney Suite.

There were a number of speakers giving recounts of their own experiences, how they spiralled down into some very dark places and how re-engagement in a form of football helped them rebuild their lives, give themselves a new sense of purpose and increased their confidence and self-esteem.

The seminar added a little more context to the sufferings of our very own Ian Darler who presented so eloquently at our October conference. Today’s speakers had all similarly suffered a trigger-point, following which their lives had sunk to new depths and engagement with projects like Blokes United, Girls United, Rammy Men, Greater Manchester Walking Football, FootGolf and Social Inclusion Football.

Paul Hardman, Paul Davies and Wayne Beck told us quite sad stories, especially Wayne who although still relatively young, has spent time in institutions “specialising” in mental health issues, was relentlessly called a “nutter” or “loony”, before engaging in Social Inclusion Football. Together they have built up a community or family atmosphere where nobody is excluded from playing football. This inclusivity is changing people’s lives. New lifetime friendships have been developed, people who have never met before are enjoying holidays together and the football they play can be competitive or non-competitive.

Paul Gardener told us about the strides made in Walking Football in the Rochdale area of Greater Manchester, especially at Heywood Sports Village and Dan told us about the positive effects that the new-found football experiences are having on participants’ health and well-being.

If your local Football Association is running anything like this get yourselves along. We all know someone who is struggling. The person might be a colleague, family member or in my case a close lifelong friend. Introducing them into or back into football might be a useful solution.

My thanks to Iain Mackie and Andrew Whittaker, our hosts for the morning at Lancashire FA. It was also great to see Keith McIntosh again. I first met him at Bolton Wanderers in May 2019 and he works tirelessly with Sporting Memories in support of those with Dementia.


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