Newtown A.F.C. and Merthyr Town F.C. were the first two football clubs in Wales chosen to deliver a mental health initiative this week, thanks to a new partnership with Time To Change Wales and Football Association Wales Trust.
We Wear The Same Shirt will aim to break down the barriers faced by those living with a mental health condition in playing football through a tailored programme that aligns mental with physical wellbeing.
The weekly football programme, which launched on Tuesday 3rd November in Merthyr and Wednesday 4th November in Newtown, promises to be free of the pressures of competition and is free thanks to Sports Wales funding. The programme will expand to two more clubs in Autumn 2016 with Newport County F.C. and Wrexham A.F.C. starting to host weekly sessions.
In any one year 1 in 4 individuals will experience a mental health problem or illness and at any one time 1 in 6 of the workforce will face these challenges. People with mental health problems should have the same access to sports and activities as anyone else, but many have their lives blighted by the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental health. This stigma and discrimination can be found from within their families, friendship groups, local community and at work.
With physical activity being a proven factor to improving mental health, projects like these can be a lifeline for individuals in need of improving their wellbeing.
Antony Metcalfe at Time To Change Wales said: “We’re delighted to be working with Football Association of Wales Trust and all four clubs in this pilot project to support people with lived experience of mental health in getting active. We Wear The Same Shirt is about being part of a team more than anything else, with our clubs offering a safe place for people to participate in football at a pace and level that suits their needs.”
Owen Durbridge, Club Secretary at Newtown A.F.C., said: “We want to support anyone experiencing living with a mental health condition in either re-entering, or taking their first steps in playing football. And if someone doesn’t want to play, then that’s OK! There will be other opportunities to get involved as we know it’s not just the players that make the team but all its staff and supporters too.”
Elliott Evans, Community Development Officer at Merthyr Town F.C.: “With 1 in 4 people living with a mental health condition, we want to make sure that Merthyr Town F.C. is supporting its fans and community.”
We Wear The Same Shirt runs every Wednesday at Newtown A.F.C. from 12.30pm to 2:00pm and every Tuesday at Merthyr Town F.C. from 1.00pm to 2.30pm. If you would like to join the team, please visit www.wewearthesameshirt.org.