It has been revealed that a football project in Wales is having a positive impact on participants struggling with mental health issues.
We Wear the Same Shirt – a collaboration between the FAW Trust and Time to Change Wales – is designed specifically for people with experience of mental health.
Since 2015, regular sessions have been delivered in Merthyr, Newport, Newtown and Wrexham, attracting more than 175 participants.
Last June, the first ever We Wear the Same Shirt national tournament was staged, featuring 57 competitors.
Of those competing:
· 91% said they were more confident after getting involved with We Wear the Same Shirt
· 95% felt their mental health had improved
· 100% felt physically healthier
One participant in Newtown said: “Basically, coming to this football saved my life. I was always attempting suicide and self-harm. It helped a lot and given me a lot of friends around here. I’ve got ADHD so the medication helps but the football helps me let off steam that’s building up inside.”
Another participant, Luke Martin at Newport County Community said: “Getting out (of the house) has really helped me a lot. It’s helped me with my schizophrenia. It’s good to talk to people. Usually, if I’m sat at home, I just eat rubbish really but when I’m at football I eat healthily and I feel the benefits.”
The FAW Trust is the charitable arm of the FAW that is responsible for developing football in Wales. CEO Neil Ward explains: “We've applied to the Welsh Government for further funding and we really hope we are successful because We Wear the Same Shirt serves as such an important lifeline to those in need of improving their wellbeing."
Lowri Wyn Jones, Programme Manager for Time to Change Wales, said: “We are delighted to have collaborated with FAW Trust on this project to support anti-stigma work within football in Wales and provide safe environments for people to participate in physical activity with their communities.”
The project has also been endorsed by former Wales international Nathan Blake and current women’s international Tash Harding.
Harding is a big believer in the power of football: “I think it (the We Wear the Same Shirt project) will give people the opportunity to talk about things. We’re there to help people, we’re there to get people into sport, into being active and not being scared to face obstacles and that’s what mental health is. It is a great initiative.”
In any one year 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem or illness. 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination while suicide is the biggest killer for men under 50.