Kingstonian FC and Worthing FC played a charity match on Wednesday 13 October for the charity Mind, raising money for mental health awareness week.
Mind in Kingston runs a programme using football to help those with mental health problems. The team is sponsored by Kingstonian FC, and is known as Kingstonian Mind United.
Kingstonian Mind United player Kush said: “Sport is the best sort of release in terms of mental health. With solo sports like tennis you don’t get the interaction that you do with football…even if you’re not talking to anyone on the pitch… there’s always a sense of subliminal communication that goes on.”
Mind in Kingston is a subdivision of Mind working in and around Kingston to ensure that people are receiving the mental health support they need. People who come to the charity can be referred by their GPs, support workers or themselves.
The charity provides a range of services and projects, and every year for Mental Health Awareness Day, it holds events with themes that focus on specific issues.
Kingstonian Mind United player Chris Cheek said: “It’s important because doing things with Mind, I get to meet new people… it’s got a good social element to it. By doing this it helps people know that there is someone out there to help – someone there to offer a support network.”
As community inclusion manager for Mind in Kingston, Rachel Dykins runs the charity’s football project.
Dykins said: “The main focus is on their mental health so mainly about building confidence and social skills [and] feeling safe and not judge in the environment they’re in.”
The idea of the football project is to get those referred out of the house and staying active. It prevents isolation, and alleviates symptoms of poor mental health. For many of these players, just knowing that there are others in the same boat helps them support each other.
A university study at Harvard revealed that running for just 15 minutes every day reduces the risk of serious depression by 26 per cent, and that maintaining a regime of regular exercise can stop those who are recovering from further mental decline.
Exercise, combined with socialising and teamwork, is a great way to build self-esteem and plays a role in the treatment of severe mental health issues.
Two other Kingstonian Mind united players Leon Denny and Shaun O’Shay said: “Before the games I always see miserable faces to even people looking zoned out but then to when they’re playing its just smiles and happiness, everyone forgets about all of the problems they have and it’s so nice to see.”
The football project has had a genuinely good effect on a lot of the people who have been referred to the service.
An anonymous speaker under the initials MS said: “100 per cent it has a positive impact on the on the local community it’s something I enjoy doing… I can be athletic and get rewarded for doing it… It’s fantastic. They treat you like and adult, with quite a lot of respect, everyone is treated the same and I just look forward to it.”
Mind in Kingston have launched a fundraiser for World Mental Health Awareness Day. They set a target of £3000, and are slowly but steadily making their way towards the target, with £1000 raised so far.
With the money, they would be able to launch a women’s team. Referrals tend to be male dominated now, and even though women do attend the training and games, some of the women would prefer to be in a women’s only space.
The referral rates had gone up a lot during the pandemic, and Mind is trying to meet the demands of everyone who come. to the charity. They want to be able to expand and provide more welfare support to those who need it.