A therapeutic project aimed at tackling mental and physical health through football is continuing to thrive after supporting its participants through the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s A Goal is a joint enterprise between the Argyle Community Trust and social enterprise Livewell Southwest, the provider of integrated health and care services in Plymouth.
The project has been successfully running for more than 13 years and uses football analogies as a way of getting people to talk openly about their mental health difficulties.
It’s part of Livewell’s successful STEPS community service, which supports people with a range of problems through community and group activities including the It’s A Goal programme, psychoeducational group programmes and the CROP horticultural therapy.
Rob Jackson, mental health nurse at Livewell who runs the sessions, said, “There’s still a lot of stigma around men accessing mental health services and even more so when we originally set the programme up.
“In non-COVID times each session is held at a football ground, everything is as non-clinical as can be because we know that this can be a barrier for also people accessing mental health support.”
Each session lasts for 90 minutes – the same length as a football game, with a half-time break and groups run for a thirteen-week season.
“Everyone has a long-term goal to work towards which is decided by them and it could be anything from understanding their mental health better, increasing social interaction or cutting down on alcohol for example.”
Alice Young, Argyle Community Trust Inclusion Officer, who supports Livewell with the programme, said, “It is amazing to see peoples journeys and see them developing through socialising and playing football. Sessions are relaxed, inclusive and for all abilities.
Participants come together and talk and support each other in a fun and social environment. I have loved every minute of working with Livewell on the It’s a Goal programme and I am so proud to have played a part in it.”
As well as the 90-minute therapeutic session, people in the group also have the option of playing football together.
Rob adds, “The football match afterwards has been really popular with those attending the group and it’s a really great way to support people’s physical health as well as their mental health so it’s a really holistic approach.
Even after people have completed their sessions, they still come to take part in the football, and we’ve built up a really great little community. We even have some people who have successfully completed the programme come back and volunteer to support others.”
Although originally aimed at reducing suicide rates in men, the programme has grown in popularity and supports women too.
Rob adds, “We’ve had several women successfully complete the programme. Watching the way they’re supported by others in the group and seeing the trust and bonds made is amazing.
Sessions run every Thursday at Manadaon Sports and Community Hub. If you’d like to find out more about It’s A Goal, or join the programme, please email Argyle Community Trust Inclusion Officer Alice Young – email@example.com.