Unlike most football teams, Swale Tigers’ primary goal isn’t winning – it’s mental health recovery.
For national Time to Talk day, people are being encouraged to speak more openly about mental health. Swale Tigers is already using football to start that conversation.
All of Swale Tigers’ players (15 men and women of all ages) have experienced mental ill health. Football enables them to start helping both themselves and each other, according to club founder Matt Bromley.
Matt has personally experienced the benefits of sport in combatting mental ill health. “I’ve seen people change, they get their zest for life back. They start having fun and it gives them a lift. Because everyone on the team has experiences of mental ill health, they can support each other. Doing physical activity has also been shown to improve mental wellbeing.”
Men are especially prone to hiding their true feelings, and Matt believes that belonging to a football team helps them to open up about how they’re feeling. “Traditionally men don’t communicate easily. However, if the environment is right and you get them engaged by playing football or some other means they eventually start to talk. From there, they can begin moving forward.”
Swale Tigers train on Monday evenings on the Isle of Sheppey. They take part in tournaments with similar teams across the country and are speaking with the Kent FA about the possibility of setting up a mental health football league for Kent.
The team has also tried other activities away from the pitch, including other sport sessions and meals out.
Swale Tigers belongs to Live Well Kent – an umbrella of mental health and wellbeing organisations across the county. When somebody gets in touch with Live Well Kent, it connects them to a network of charities and community organisations in their area.