Everton in the Community’s Mental Health Football coordinator was a guest speaker at a Healthy Stadia’s recent Fit 4 Health workshop that was inspired by the Government backed Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation.
Additional work is currently being undertaken across Europe as part of the EU funded project Fit4Health that is currently developing guidelines for positive youth coaching and competition environments and the focus of the workshop was on mental health awareness and positive coaching environments within the context of aspiring/performance level youth sport.
A strong emphasis on the sharing of good practice amongst different sports and how sports clubs’ (both amateur and professional) coaches and governing bodies are able respond to Mental Health Charter.
The workshop was attended by 45 delegates and was addressed by seven speakers with Johnnie Garside, a Mental Health coordinator and employee with Everton in the Community’s award-winning Imagine Your Goals programme, and Gordon Pennington of Saints Community Foundation Development Trust, being the only orators from the world of football.
Pioneers in the world of mental health, the Club’s official charity developed an exercise programme Imagine Your Goals (IYG) which has since benefited hundreds of people across Merseyside. The programme offers local people who are living with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, an opportunity to talk about their problems and seek help and support in a familiar environment.
In 2008 local NHS partner Mersey Care NHS Trust jointly funded an initial three-year programme with the Premier League Community Fund, enabling Everton to become the first Premier League club in the country to appoint a full-time mental health football coordinator. Mersey Care NHS Trust continues to work with Everton in the Community and, in 2014, funded the scheme for a further two years to enable local people to continue to access this programme.
There have been many successes from the programme, with players improving fitness, feeling better within themselves, making new friends and in some cases going on to undertake coaching qualifications, volunteering and employment.
IYG has been adopted by other Premier League clubs up and down the country and has received several prestigious awards from a number of leading industries.