CHESTER FC Community Trust are marking this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week through their weekly mental health football sessions.

Funded in partnership with the MBNA Community Investment Programme, which is dedicated to supporting community outreach initiatives in Chester, the sessions aim to reduce social isolation and offer participants opportunities to make friends and keep fit in a welcoming environment, talk about their problems without stigma, seek advice and access additional support.

Held at the King George V Sports Hub every Thursday and Tuesday lunchtimes at the Ellesmere Port Sports Village, the sessions are open to both men and women who have experienced a mental health problem, with no formal referral needed.

Mental Health Awareness Week this year carries the theme ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’ with the foundation keen to raise awareness of the positive outlet these informal training sessions can provide for those experiencing poor mental health.

The sessions are also attended by support workers from both the NHS and other agencies, as well as mental health first aiders from the club itself, who can all provide information on additional support.

Regular exercise has been shown to be beneficial for mental health and wellbeing, and the Chester FC Community Trust sessions intend to help reduce stress and anxiety, increase self-esteem and reduce the risk of depression, providing attendees with a safe space to come to each week.

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Jim Green, Chief Executive at the Chester FC Community Trust, said: “Our mental health football session are a simple format for offering people additional support with their mental health. The relaxed and informal nature of the sessions offer a stress-free environment in which people can come and relax, while doing something that’s good for their bodies, as well as their minds.

“There’s no expectation for attendees to talk about some of the issues they may facing, but we have found that people are more likely to open up in an environment they feel comfortable – and ultimately, safe – in.

“We have between 15 and 20 attendees every week, from a variety of backgrounds and facing a range of issues from homelessness to being out of work as well as those experiencing more serious mental health issues.

“For us, this is a small difference we can make to the lives of local people who are struggling with their mental health and need a safe space to visit – even if it’s just once a month. It’s also great to see this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week focus on moving more for mental health, as this is something we’ve seen so many people reap the benefits from over the year.”

Victoria Dowd, MBNA Community Investment Partnership Manager, who have been the club’s primary sponsor since 2010 added: “We’re delighted to support some of Chester FC Community Trust’s mental health initiatives through our partnership as part of the MBNA Community Investment Programme. Mental health football sessions offer a simple format for people to get together, get some exercise in and, if they feel comfortable, share some of the struggles they may be experiencing.  

“It’s fantastic to be able to support our local club in hosting community outreach sessions that genuinely help people in the Chester area – we’re really proud to be involved.”

More information about Chester FC Community Trust’s range of inclusion sessions can be found here: