Mind in Kingston is a local mental health charity who this year celebrated 40 years of providing services in the Royal Borough of Kingston.
In order to offer support for males who tend to engage less with services, Mind in Kingston set up a football team in August 2009 for men and women experiencing mental distress. We started playing on the fairground using jumpers for goal posts. Three years later and training at various venues we have settled at Kingsmeadow for the last year. During the three years we have played in a London, Surrey and European mental health league and we are currently The Surrey champions, winning the Surrey Community League.
People may or not be aware that the service isn’t about playing football! Football is the tool, like many of the other activities and support we offer it is used to take the focus off the individual and enable people to meet, communicate and improve social skills and confidence. The added benefits with football is the team work and physical exercise, which increases mental well being by releasing endorphins – the feel good hormones. There is much research on physical activity and social engagement having a profound impact on mental health.
Quite often when people are discharged from ‘care’, People are left with little or no support and this can be a common cause for a relapse in their mental health. We allow people to use the service as long as they need it. We now meet twice a week, providing a regular activity as well as support if someone is experiencing problems, the players will support each other but staff are at hand to provide ‘professional’ advice if needed.
Myself and the 30 players in the team are grateful that Kingstonian FC have recognised the positive effects that football can bring. It is nice to feel that we are part of a bigger family which plays an important part in the Kingston community. The kits and coaching sessions Kingstonian provided, have increased the sense of self esteem and pride. Our two previous teams Mind United and A3 Milan are now proud to be called Kingstonian Mind FC. This partnership will go a long way not only for the Mind players but also in one of Mind in Kingston objectives in breaking down the stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental health.
We were fortunate to have a social work student from Kingston University carry out an evaluation of the service. This showed that five players had given up smoking, one has gained employment and three have taken up volunteering positions, many cited that the service has changes their lives and others stating The sessions are what they look forward to all week.
All mentioned the increased in confidence and social circle as a positive aspect. We are also grateful to the Kingston Rotary club, Waitrose in Surbiton and Kingston Nurses Association for their support and with some promised funding from NHS Kingston in helping fund the continuation of the project.
Chief Executive, Mind in Kingston