Sport can help men's mental health

Playing amateur football is good for men’s mental health and can help even those with serious mental health problems.

These are the findings presented tat the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology in Birmingham by Dr Jurai Darongkamas from South Staffordshire & Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Darongkamas and her colleagues from Staffordshire and Aston Universities, impressed by earlier findings that suggest people’s mental health benefits if they play football, set up a club for men with a range of mental health problems in 2007. The club play’s in a competitive league in the West Midlands.

After the club had been running for four years, all 15 members were invited to take part in interviews about their experiences with the club. Ten agreed to take part and these players had a range of problems, including depression and psychosis.

The players reported benefits such as improvements to their mental health, ability to deal better with their mental health problems, improved confidence and improvements in their social life. 

Dr Darongkamas says: “There is growing evidence that, for men with mental health problems, playing in a football team can have a range of health benefits and also reduces social isolation. As young men are often unwilling to be involved with conventional mental health services, encouraging them to play football could have benefits both for them and for health services.

“We would be very interested in trying a similar survey with women footballers, but when we tried to set up a team in 2007 we could not find enough players.”