We are delighted to announce that we have successfully secured funding from The National Lottery to support the local community of Oldham in tackling mental health through sport and physical activity.
The award-winning projects Mental Health Football and Mental Health Walking was initially founded by first-team management duo Ross Elliott and Andy Steel (pictured). The main aim of the project is to provide a welcoming, supportive, judgement-free environment for residents of Oldham to take part in football and physical activity. With no expectations, no pressure, no scoreline, no winners or losers the project is driven by a group of men and women coming together to socialise, support each other and talk.
Following the success of Mental Health Football, the duo went on to kickstart the Mental Health Walking project in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic after identifying the need for locals to get outside, be active and socialise in a safe and controlled manner.
Both projects aim to improve mental health using physical activity, in a friendly, easy-going atmosphere where fun and enjoyment are the focus. Both projects have gone on to be widely supported with professionals, groups and community organisations now identifying the positive impact of the group and referring individuals to the sessions.
According to a recent NHS analysis, 13.1 per cent of adult GP patients across Oldham resulted in a diagnosis of depression in 2019/20 which is significantly higher than the average across England. A recent survey conducted by the mental health charity MIND found around a third of adults said their mental health had deteriorated since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there are very little signs of the mental health statistics improving any time soon. However, there is significant and well documented evidence to demonstrate a correlation between the benefits of being physically active and improvements in mental wellbeing.
Through the funding provided by The National Lottery Community Fund, AFC Oldham is able to further develop their projects to be wider accessible as well as up-skilling more volunteers to become accredited Mental Health First Aiders and offer wider support to its participants.
Project founder and first-team manager, Ross Elliott commented:
“The developments of both projects since myself and Andy started the initiatives is both fantastic but also demonstrates the need for groups such as this isn’t slowing down. We have gone from engaging with around 12 participants a week pre-covid to on average 30-40 per session.
Football and physical activity have played such a huge role in many of our lives at the club, it has got me through some of the more difficult times and it makes me immensely proud to say it is now making a difference and helping others too.
This funding from The National Lottery will help to safeguard the project for the long term future as well as enhance the support we can offer the participants. I speak on behalf of everyone at the club and every participant at the session when I say I am grateful for the support of The National Lottery and the wider community of Oldham.”
For more information regarding the two sessions, you can contact the club via email at MHFOldham@gmail.com.