Sky Blues in the Community introduce new project for 2021 to support men’s mental health

A community sports charity which operates across Coventry and Warwickshire is set to launch a new five-year mental health project targeting men.

Sky Blues in the Community (SBitC), the charity linked to Coventry City Football Club, have secured £371,000 of funding from The National Lottery’s Reaching Communities programme to deliver its mental health programme, Men Talk. SBitC are one of the few football community schemes nationally to have received an award of this size from The National Lottery which is a tribute to their track record in innovative community work. The charity expects Men Talk to be extremely attractive to men suffering with mental health problems, especially following the challenges presented by COVID 19 in recent months.

Men Talk was developed by SBitC and co-produced with beneficiaries with the aim of supporting 1,600 men over the next five years across Coventry and Warwickshire with their emotional health and well-being. The project will be delivered via one-to-one support, group physical activity and classroom-based workshops in a fun, welcoming, non-clinical environment. The project has been designed in consultation with local men and targets all men, not simply those with an interest in football or sport.

Men Talk is set to start in early 2021 and will provide fun activities and social opportunities in community venues across Coventry, Nuneaton, Warwick and Rugby (venues to be confirmed). Each session will be led by SBitC’s specialist Mental Health Officer with support from SBitC’s professional sports coaches. Course content will vary based on selected modules, but ice-breaking activities and get to know you activities will form part of all courses. Workshops will cover a range of subjects related to mental health, including topics as varied as:

  • Goal setting
  • Life balance
  • Healthy body
  • Personal health
  • Self-compassion
  • Mindfulness
  • Sleep
  • Stress management
  • Substance misuse and smoking cessation
  • Understanding psychosis, depression, and anxiety
  • Healthy eating and menu planning

The wide menu of activities participants can benefit from include physical activities, group exercises, team games, gardening, yoga and creative activities. Men Talk will be co-produced by participants ensuring they can choose the weekly activities they take part in.

For some people, physical activity can be as powerful as medicine or therapy. The Mental Health Foundation have said that for people with depression “comparative studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as medication or psychotherapy”. Exercise releases natural chemicals like adrenaline and serotonin. It helps to release muscle tension, raises the body temperature and causes tiredness. These all help relieve stress and provide relaxation, which is of particular benefit for people with mental health problems.

In the UK, professional football clubs have received an increasing amount of attention with regards to their potential ability to contribute to the public health agenda. “Professional football clubs’ community physical activity and health programmes have demonstrated huge success in both engaging and retaining their target audiences,” Curran et al. 2014, Pringle et al. 2014, Pringle et al. 2015.

SBitC use its credibility and connection to Coventry City FC to attract specific target groups. Men Talk will use SBitC’s ability to engage with men from across the social spectrum, enabling them to reach their potential by intensive, supportive, carefully planned work.

SBitC already play a significant role in supporting the community’s mental health and are uniquely placed as an organisation, in local men’s hearts and minds, to be able to appeal to them by focussing specifically on their interests. With a track record of being able to engage and attract men’s involvement over the long-term, SBitC is able to have a significant impact on their health.

SBitC’s Head of Community, Dave Busst said: “SBitC has a commitment to making a difference within our local community. We currently run a wide range of projects in Coventry and Warwickshire, based around our four themes – Inclusion, Health, Sport and Education. We are delighted to announce our new project Men Talk and keen to give men this fantastic opportunity to learn valuable life-skills, such as stress management and goal setting, whilst hopefully making a significant impact on their mental health and lifestyle.”