Back of the net!

Fantastic project with fantastic results

A new report is out on the Coping Through Football project, which is aimed at delivering benefits to the physical and mental health of people living with mental health issues.

A low-cost intervention, Coping Through Football was founded by London Playing Fields Foundation, which started the initiative in collaboration with North East London Foundation Trust and Leyton Orient Trust.

It was conceived in response to the fact that the biggest cause of death of 20-49 year-old men was suicide and that, given that community mental health services were stretched to the limit, there was an over-reliance upon medication as a treatment.


  • For two out of three participants (39% of whom have schizophrenia) there was a positive change in lifestyle choices around healthy eating and smoking
  • 54% of participants went on to volunteering, education and training or employment
  • There was a 12% reduction in the number of overnight hospital stays for those who were involved in the project
  • The cost of one person attending the programme every week for a year was £1,700, which is equivalent to four days in a mental health inpatient bed, or five A&E attendances
  • Coping Through Football leads to nearly double the level of weekly exercise in participants
  • A wide range of psychological and social benefits were seen including wider social networks, self-esteem and lifestyle changes
  • The project is considered by participants a non-stigmatising and highly valued project with considerable visibility in the wider community.

Game changer

Coping Through Football focuses on the recovery of young people and adults experiencing mental health problems with the goal of helping them to live more independently. Its aim is to transform and add sustained value to existing community mental health services.

It highlights the value of cooperative, multi-agency working, by demonstrating how two charities can work in partnership with the NHS to use football to improve the lives of one of society’s most marginalised groups.

The aim of Coping Through Football is to use the football experience for participants to get fitter, increase their levels of self-esteem and confidence, make new friends and ultimately to help them get their lives back on track. Coping Through Football does not see itself as a "football project"; rather a social inclusion project that uses football as a tool to engage people with mental health problems. Most of their players have experienced social exclusion, unemployment, poor physical and mental health and lack a social network or support. The project has been extremely successful in helping players to turn their lives around and to live more independently.

It has been recognised by the Department of Health as a model of best practice in the recovery of people with long-term mental health problems.

Coping Through Football provides six football sessions a week based in Redbridge and Waltham Forest for adults and young people. All sessions take place outdoors on 3G artificial turf pitches.

Find out more about Coping Through Football.

There's also a new Charter for Equal Health, which sets out a vision for better physical health support for people with mental health conditions. Read more here.