The power of football and the community feeling it invokes continues to be a source of inspiration in developing mental health and wellbeing programs for men.
Earlier this year, we showcased an initiative in Europe spear-headed by Eurofit, an EU-funded project that harnesses “the love of the game” to engage football fans in health-promoting lifestyle changes through their connection to clubs.
Closer to home, Sons of the West is a 10-week program run by the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation that helps local men learn about their health and wellbeing.
In Newcastle, UK, a new program has launched to encourage people to talk openly about mental health and provide tips on how to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
‘Be A Game Changer’ is supported by the Newcastle City Council, the Premier League PFA Community Fund and Newcastle United.
“Football is a good hook to engage with hard-to-reach groups in ways that invitations to specifically discuss “mental health” may not be – especially if they feel ashamed about the problems they may be facing,” writes project officer Ollie Bell in the Independent.
Many of the Game Changer programs take place in St James’ Park, where fans unite over football – and now, interwoven with conversations about happiness, sleep, stress, diet, alcohol and support services.
“Barriers are broken down and honest, supportive conversations take place,” writes Ollie. “And they continue out into the community as we take part in walking football sessions, cycling groups or boxing classes.
“And sometimes, having a conversation with a mate about mental health can be much easier if you’re doing something you both enjoy, like having a kickabout down the park or inviting a mate round to watch the match on the telly.”
TAKE ACTION FOR MEN’S HEALTH
Read about the Eurofit program - Male fans get active at football clubs across Europe (AMHF)