Sixty Second Interview with Tony Russell
Tony Russell is senior advisor for Shift on Football and Mental Health which organised a World Cup tournament for people with mental health problems.
How was the tournament? Who won?
In the end it was a combined German and English fans teams that won the tournament 2-1 against a German mental health team. Our boys from Birmingham, a team of service users and mental health workers, made it to the semi’s. They were just really chuffed to get that far and to be playing football at a World Cup venue, being part of the World Cup atmosphere and having banter with fans from other countries. It was a great example of social inclusion.
The organisers were also handing out lots of leaflets to fans, German and English, about mental health. They were really interested and wanting to find out more.
Have you got any other tournaments lined up?
Fanon FC, the Birmingham team, and the Chelmsley Wanderers, from Solihull, both play league matches and have a series of fixtures lined up for next season.
Where did the idea for the tournament come from?
The idea for the tournament was the brainchild of Cheryl Kipping, a consultant nurse at South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. Having heard about the Shift campaign and the links we are making with football and the FA, and knowing that there would be fan activities in Germany, she thought it would be great to link the two. For Cheryl it combined her two passions – mental health and football, using the latter to raise awareness about the former. Having sounded a few fans out, there was a positive response so she went ahead with it. Cheryl also says that for her football is a way of maintaining her own mental health – it helps to keep the work-life balance.
How is Shift raising awareness and understanding of mental health through football and other sport?
The Football Association has made a commitment to help local football teams with players who have mental health problems arrange fixtures through our website.
One element of the partnership with the FA is a webpage at www.shift.org.uk that enables existing teams that play under a mental health banner to arrange fixtures and support each other.
Shift is also working with the Professional Footballers Association, the Football Foundation, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the organisers of the 2012 Olympics to raise awareness and understanding of mental health through sport.
What specific work is Shift doing with the Football Association and the Professional Footballer’s Association?
Shift are working with the FA and PFA as part of a mental health advisory group who are working together, along with organisations such as the Men’s Health Forum, to take forward a number of projects including the development of a network of people involved in mental health related football teams, and a possible national anti-stigma campaign similar to the Kick Racism out of Football one.
What have been the results of Shift’s work so far in promoting better inclusion of people with mental health issues through football?
Well although it is still early days, anecdotal evidence suggests that already many people (who previously had no opportunity) have been given the chance to get involved in football, thereby improving their physical and mental health, whilst at the same time broadening their social networks and skills.
Previous Sixty Second Interviews in the Adults’ Sector