For the last 4 years, ‘We wear the same shirt’ has been offering chances for people with mental health issues to develop social and life skills through football. Merthyr Town, Wrexham and Newport County are just a few clubs who have players who enjoy weekly training sessions and often play games. We as a club are no different, we currently have a small group who train every week and we are actively encouraging new members.
Many individuals dealing with mental health say that the discrimination they face is often worse than the illness itself. To make matters more difficult, this stigma acts as a barrier in stopping the same people from getting involved in sports and activities.
To tackle this, Time To Change Wales and Football Association Wales (FAW) Trust decided to get together to use their skills for what they do best. The result? We Wear The Same Shirt: A unique pilot football programme designed specifically for people with lived experience of mental health, and a public campaign to combat the ever-present stigma.
Who does WWTSS help? A case study.
We have caught up with Stephen Lewis who is a Newtown lad and is currently part of our WWTSS team. Stephen has been diagnosed with Dyspraxia and it doesn’t seem to phase him, in fact he has embraced the condition and has gained some attention in the media and with sports stars across Britain. He has gained attention from England and Leicester Tigers Rugby star Ellis Genge who also has dyspraxia. Ex- Coventry, Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham Forest player Gary McSheffrey has also endorsed Stephen on social media.
Dyspraxia, a form of developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. It may also affect speech. DCD is a lifelong condition, formally recognised by international organisations including the World Health Organisation. DCD is distinct from other motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and stroke, and occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. Individuals may vary in how their difficulties present: these may change over time depending on environmental demands and life experiences.
We asked Stephen what WWTSS offers him and he has admitted that his life is better with an outlet such as football. It has helped him socially with meeting people all the time and the active nature of football helps him develop his skills and has helped him as a person. It has also opened many doors, Stephen has recently been shortlisted for ‘The Shaw Trust Disability Power 100’ which is the top 100 most influential disabled people in Britain. That is a fantastic achievement.
We as a club would like for more members of the public to enjoy football and help people with mental health issues. If you are interested in joining in, please don’t hesitate to contact the club. The sessions alternate between a Wednesday (17:15 start) or Thursday (16:45 start). The sessions last about an hour and are held at Latham Park.
9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination