Published Tue, 2011-04-12 15:27; updated 34 weeks ago.
Port Vale FC is proving to be a lifeline for many young men in the area, but not in the way you may think.
Vale Park is host to the It’s A Goal! scheme, which aims to help men between the ages of 16-35 receive support for depression.
Launched at Port Vale in January 2011 with the local North Staffordshire PCT and the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme, It’s a Goal! uses the language of football as a way of encouraging the young men to talk about the issues that affect them and make them feel more comfortable.
All participants are referred to as ‘players’, while the person leading the sessions is called the ‘coach’. The programme itself is aptly named ‘The Season’ and runs sessions based on further football metaphor.
The It's a Goal! programme (season) is based on football metaphor and comprises 11 sessions or ‘matches’ (11 being the number of players in a football team). Each match is then broken down into a classic 4-4-2 formation found in football. There is one ‘goalkeeper’ session, four ‘defence’ matches, four ‘midfield’ and two ‘attack’ matches to finish off the season.
"It’s fun, enjoyable, you get instant feedback," said one of the players. "You don’t feel like a patient, at the clinic I felt emasculinated, that there was something wrong with me. At IAG there is a positive masculinity, it’s ok to admit to being vulnerable, we are part of a team."
It’s a Goal! was set up to try to help young men with depression and connect with them in a new and innovative way. Because men were not accessing the health care facilities available to them, It’s a Goal! takes a different approach, getting them into a local football stadium, where they might feel more comfortable.
Pete Sayers, the IAG national development director, say the scheme was aimed at guys who don’t get in touch with health services.
"These guys can think they are the only ones who are suffering. These guys don’t feel that they can talk about their problems because of the stigma attached to it," he said.
Since the first It’s A Goal scheme was launched in 2004 at Macclesfield Town FC, the scheme has grown to include 14 clubs, including Stoke City FC and Manchester United.
The organisers work with local PCTs to help identify those who may need help but also relies heavily on self referral, because many young men who suffer with depression do not contact health services for help.
Depression affects one in three people in the UK and it is believed that of the 7,000 suicides a year, 75 per cent are committed by those suffering from the illness. With many young men choosing not to seek help because of their depression this puts them increasingly at risk of suicide. According to the World Health Organisation, depression will be the world’s second most debilitating illness by the year 2020, behind only HIV/Aids.
It’s A Goal! matches take place at Vale Park on Tuesday afternoons. There is also a supporters’ club, which helps the organisers and counsellors to keep in touch with those who are on or have completed the course and provide continuing support.
Due for review October 2013