17 FOCUS ON THE OUTCOMES: BENEFITS TO MENTAL WELLBEING The link between playing sport and improved mental health is well established. From the release of endorphins to the self-esteem boost, regular exercise also opens up new social networks for those who otherwise might have found themselves isolated. Every Tuesday, 40 men and women play football at the Herlingshaw Centre’s 3G pitch in Middlesbrough’s South Bank region. It is a facility made possible thanks to £450,000 from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund. The group are of different levels of fitness and ability but share a commitment to supporting each other through various mental issues, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. More recently the programme has been expanded to help refugees, asylum seekers and their families settle in the area. The ‘Think with your feet,’ initiative is overseen by the Middlesbrough FC Foundation’s Social Inclusion Coordinator, Claire Streeter. “Football has the power to improve people’s mental wellbeing. That can be helping individuals with longstanding medical issues, or helping those new to the community to settle,” she says. “Without our 3G pitch, neither of those things would have been possible.” MIDDLESBROUGH FC FOUNDATION HELP TACKLE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AND INTEGRATE REFUGEES THROUGH SPECIALIST FOOTBALL TEAM “This programme saved my life,” says Adie who has attended the programme for several months. The sessions have helped Adie manage serious bouts of clinical depression, which had previously culminated in a suicide attempt. He says: “I see the other players on the team as my family and the 3G pitch is our home. We play football together, which really helps to improve our support networks.” Ibrahim, 28, is another attendee. He fled Syria in early 2016 and moved to Middlesbrough as part of the Government’s resettlement programme. For him, the sessions represent an opportunity to reclaim some normality. “When the war started my wife, two children and I had no choice but to leave – it was very scary. Previously everything was very uncertain but it’s better now. That is partly thanks to being able to meet new people on the football team who have been through similar experiences to me,” he explained. CASE STUDY CASE STUDY CASE STUDY CASE STUDY CASE STUDY FOCUS ON THE OUTCOMES