Playing soccer benefits people with psychosis, says a new study.
The report, in the Irish Journal of Occupational Therapy, shows that the participants identified a number of benefits of soccer in the community football programme: Playing became a valued part of weekly routines and fostered re-engagement with previously valued roles.
The regular games of football also improved the patients’ social confidence and motor and process skills, and had a positive impact on their mental and physical health.
The study, conducted by Laura Moloney and Daniela Rohde, followed the experiences of six men who were participants in the Kickstarting Recovery Programme (KSRP).
The programme is for individuals who have severe mental health difficulties. It is a joint initiative of the mental health service’s occupational therapy department, the Football Association of Ireland, and a local county council.
The report noted that “service-users had expressed an interest in playing football, but were unable to access existing community resources”.
By the time the report was compiled, 74 people — the majority of whom were diagnosed with a psychotic disorder — had taken part in the KSRP. The six men in the study were on medication, including anti-psychotics, when they took part in the training cycle.
The positive effects were manifold, from offering a distraction from “unwelcome thoughts” to physical fitness and an overall sense of wellbeing.
One participant, Richie, said: “Because I used to get very paranoid when I wasn’t playing football, or since I’m now playing football now, it’s kind of taking my mind off things [...] get the touch of the football and do the little skills, and it would keep my mind going, as well, like it would keep all them negative thoughts, and get rid of them negative thoughts.”
Alan, who said he had chronic schizophrenia, said: “After I do my training [...] I feel I’m a person, I’m somebody who matters, so it’s a good feeling [...] I’m a member of a team and I’m a player on a team [...] it just makes me feel good about life.”
According to the authors: “This study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the use of football as an intervention in mental health.”
Experiences of men with psychosis participating in a community-based football programme:
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