Kicking the Stigma Around Men’s Mental Health

  • Thursday, January 4, 2024
Dale Davies, Football Development Lead At Everton In The Community
  • The Growth Company's (GC) ‘Kick The Stigma’ programme aims to create positive outcomes for people on probation.
  • It does so by enrolling them on a two-month course jointly run by local football clubs and their community foundations.
  • Sessions have taken place at Everton, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Doncaster Rovers, and Rotherham United, and have been found to improve many participants’ mental and physical health.

A new programme designed to help people on probation improve their general wellbeing and make better life choices has already made good on its promise.

The Growth Company’s eight week ‘Kick The Stigma’ course is delivered alongside football clubs and their community foundations under the umbrella of GC Wellbeing.

Sessions are run in South Yorkshire and Merseyside in conjunction with Everton, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Doncaster Rovers, and Rotherham United, with the possibility of more clubs being added to the list in the coming months.

The course is split into two parts. In the morning, the Growth Company team leads classes on healthy lifestyles and relationships. In the afternoon, staff from the clubs and foundations put on sports training. Participants can also enjoy a stadium tour and match day tickets upon successfully completing the course.

A Successful Start

Four cohorts have so far gone through the programme, with 44 men completing it. 11 men also joined the drop-in sessions over the summer.

The course has had a significant impact on participants’ wellbeing.

A follow-up survey found that 83 percent had made progress with their mental health. 77 percent noted a strengthened sense of identity and self-esteem. More than 70 percent said their relationships with friends, family, and the wider community had improved, while a similar proportion reported a more productive use of their time.

These are encouraging figures because deeper family ties and higher levels of self-confidence are associated with a reduction in reoffending. 

More Than Just a Game

Reflecting on the programme’s strong start, the Growth Company’s Justice Operations Manager, Dave Vaughan, said: “Talking therapy isn’t for everyone, but we’ve found that people are more open to talking with a ball at their feet. Getting people moving has major positive impacts on both physical and mental health and we’re enabling that to happen at the same time as helping people on probation get the support they need.

“We wanted to make sure that a programme like this was attractive and interesting to people and we have to thank the football clubs for their help with that. Kick The Stigma has helped us to deliver our core programme; empowering people to improve their relationships with friends, family, and peer networks while also creating a positive atmosphere for people to share and participate.”

Building on this success, the Growth Company hosted an inter-county football tournament in October, with course participants from Rotherham and Sheffield travelling to Everton.

Brendan Sepcik was one of those who made the trip: “Taking part in the course was a really positive experience for me. Physical and mental health are two sides of the same issue, and it was good to have conversations with other people during the course. I’ve been able to apply a lot of the lessons to my life and relationships.

“It was great to be able to go to a different kind of place for our work and the tournament at Everton was a great thing to be a part of.”

A Productive Partnership

Dale Davies, who is the Football Development Lead at Everton in the Community, commented: “Working in partnership with the Growth Company to deliver ‘Kick The Stigma’ has been a real success. This collaborative programme continues to develop and provides participants with vital support, opportunities, and pathways across both organisations.

“As the programme continues to evolve, we now offer a drop-in session to check in with both previous and potential new participants. The drop-in sessions provide a safe space for participants to have a cup of tea and a chat as well as perhaps join a football session at our community hub. As a result, these drop-in sessions have provided participants with further additional support and pathways such as accessing our weekly Blue Base Pantry at Everton in the Community.”

The next course is due to start in January. Winter drop-in sessions are being held in the meantime.

Find Out More and Get In Touch

The Growth Company is an award-winning social enterprise with a mission to generate growth, create jobs, and improve lives. We provide employment services across Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region, Lancashire, Cheshire, and Yorkshire and Humber.

Get in touch today to find out more.