“Coping Through Football is a perfect illustration of how a combination of innovation, partnership working and well managed playing fields can make a real difference to the lives of people with long term mental health conditions. The results are stunning, if we could bottle the benefits of sport we’d have a magic cure.”– London Playing Fields Foundation President, Kate Hoey MP.
A new report launched at the House of Commons on 5 September highlights how football can help people with severe mental health conditions have a better quality of life and better health. The culmination of two years of research led by Dr Oliver Mason of UCL on the Coping Through Football project, the report proves how our national sport can have a huge impact on physical health, confidence and self-esteem and the ability to build social relationships between people whose lives have been affected by poor mental health.
The report found that the programme led to a doubling of weekly exercise and for two out of three participants (39% of whom have schizophrenia) positive changes in lifestyle choices around healthy eating and smoking. 54% of participants went on to volunteering, education and training or employment. The report also records that there was a 12% reduction in the number of overnight hospital stays for those who were involved in the project.
Delivered in four north east London boroughs, this groundbreaking project, which demonstrates how the benefits of football can extend well beyond the pitch to transform and in some cases save lives, was the brainchild of London Playing Fields Foundation who started the initiative in 2005 in collaboration with NELFT (North East London Foundation Trust) and Leyton Orient Trust. It was conceived in response to the fact that the biggest cause of death of 20-49 year old men was suicide and that given that community mental health services were stretched to the limit, there was an over reliance on medication as a treatment.
We are delighted to have worked with UCL to evaluate the economic impact of Coping Through Football. It is clear that the project has had a marked positive impact for those who participated, and this is likely to bring about significant benefits for the NHS as well as the people themselves and their families. We hope that more initiatives like this will come about and that we can build a clear evidence base about the benefits of sport and physical activity for people living with mental health conditions.
-Deputy CEO of the Centre for Mental Health, Andy Bell
As the evidence clearly shows that football can be a fantastic therapy, we call upon other mental health trusts and football clubs to follow suit and ensure that this shining example of best practice becomes the norm rather than the exception.
-LPFF CEO Alex Welsh
This report and the project underpinning it will be explored further at Active London, in a discussion group exploring the role of physical activity in achieving health outcomes in areas including mental health, diabetes, and other areas that significantly impact Londoners’ health and wellbeing.
Active London tickets are on sale now, with a programme that will look at how we collectively challenge inactivity and inequality at a city-wide level.