access_time 7 years ago
As part of its congenial on-going relationship with similar project ‘Imagine Your Goals’, Coping Through Football, the football centred mental health programme, invited the players from the Arsenal in the Community scheme to play at the Douglas Eyre Centre in Walthamstow last week.
In collaboration with Leyton Orient Community Sports Programme, the London Playing Fields Foundation and North East London Foundation Trust, led by occupational therapist and project coordinator Sonia Smith, over 25 participants were involved in the match that resulted in a 9-6 win for the O’s.
“It’s nice to be able to offer these opportunities to our clients,” said Sonia, “even though I worry about it getting too serious! Some of the tackles can be quite competitive!”
Coping Through Football is a transformational project that demonstrates how two sporting charities can work with the NHS to produce a sustainable recovery model approach to engage with and improve the wellbeing of adults and young people who have enduring mental illness. 
The project shows how sport can:
• help tackle stigma and discrimination
• can work together with the health sector on shared agendas to reduce inequalities
• be a tool for engagement with hard to reach groups
• assist in the recovery of those with mental ill health
Sonia continues, “The aim is to use the football experience to get fitter, increase levels of self-esteem and confidence, make new friends and ultimately to help people get their lives back on track. We do not see ourselves as a football project but a social inclusion project that uses football as a tool to engage people who have experienced mental health problems. Most of our players have experienced social exclusion, unemployment, poor physical and mental health and lack a social network or support and Coping Through Football sets out to address these issues.
“The project has been extremely successful in helping players to turn around their lives around and to live more independently. It has been recognised by the Department of Health as a model of best practice in the recovery of people with long term mental health problems and our goal is to increase the number of people who benefit.
“We have had many success stories, our players attend the project for a variety of reasons and want to achieve a variety of goals depending on the individual. Most want to improve their fitness and health, make more friends, improve their football skills or achieve a vocational goal.”
Justin, a regular attendee at the twice-weekly sessions, stated, “I think it was good again today. We look forward to the match as we don’t get to play 11-a-side too often.”
And Luke Howard, project leader for the Imagine Your Goals scheme said, “We’re grateful for the invite and have built a good friendship with Coping Through Football over the last couple of years or so. My group have enjoyed the day even though the result of the match wasn’t too kind for us! We’ve yet to win but we look forward to the next time.”
Adult sessions (over 18’s) run on Tuesday’s at the Score centre in Leyton and Thursday’s at Douglas Eyre, both commencing at 2pm. New sessions have now commenced at the Powerleague venue in Fairlop, Redbridge,  on Monday’s and Wednesday’s including sessions for 12-18 year olds. Please contact Sonia for more details.
Sonia Smith, Occupational Therapist, Waltham Forest Access & Assessment Team, Coping Through Football Project Coordinator, 26 Low Hall Lane, Walthamstow E17 8BE 
Tel: 0300 555 1242 ext: 8471