As part of the club’s commitment to Kick It Out’s ‘Fans for Diversity’ campaign, Leyton Orient invited a group of Coping Through Football participants to enjoy a unique matchday experience in their community hub.
The hub, formerly the players’ lounge under the Brisbane Road East Stand, provided a private venue in which Coping Through Football participants could meet and have refreshments in the build up to kick off against Wycombe Wanderers.
At half time Sonia Smith was invited onto the pitch to show the Mind Wellbeing Award she received at the British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards earlier in the week. Sonia, NELFT Occupational Therapist and project leader for the past five years, was a worthy winner of the award for her dedication and inspirational character. Six volunteers from the project then stepped up to take a penalty against club mascot Theo and their efforts were greeted with cheers from the supporters in the North Stand.
Jo McKenzie, LPFF Projects Manager said: “Leyton Orient staff and fans have made our service users feel so welcome in the stadium today. They’ve had a brilliant day and we are so grateful to the club for allowing us the opportunity to showcase Coping Through Football to the local community.”
Coping Through Football is a transformational project that demonstrates how two sporting charities, London Playing Fields Foundation and Leyton Orient Trust, can work with the NHS (in the shape of NELFT) to produce a sustainable recovery model approach to engage with and improve the wellbeing of adults and young people experiencing mental health issues.
The project shows how sport can:
• Help tackle stigma and discrimination
• 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
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. It is not seen as just 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 the 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 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 the goal is to increase the number of people who benefit.
Jo finished by saying, “The project celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and owes its success and longevity to the fantastic partnership between Leyton Orient Trust, London Playing Fields Foundation and NELFT.”
If you’d like more information on Coping Through Football, please visit www.copingthroughfootball.org