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How you can get involved in mental health sessions


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

This week is Men’s Health Week, which aims to specifically raise awareness of the wellbeing of males in society and the mental aspect of their health.

Everybody's mental health has been challenged by the lockdowns and insecurities of the last year. As we emerge from what we hope will be the worst of the pandemic, questions, concerns and anxieties remain. 

As a result, head of community, Steve Cuss has spoken about the importance of the topic, as well as explaining how men can get involved in the various sessions that are put on by the club and designed to target mental health:

I think it’s very real and it’s such an important subject. We see it through our community engagement programmes, from young children through to teenagers and then into adults.

I have to say, it’s really good now that we are talking about it in an open environment. With a lot of the groups we now work with, we ask direct questions around how people are feeling and how they’re affected by their mental health on a daily basis, as well as how this can change on a daily basis.

Then we also discuss some of the coping mechanisms that people can use, for example being supportive to one another and getting into some of our community activities, which allow you to socialise and exercise and ultimately feel better. 

We realised that physical activity and mental health go hand in hand. It’s often been stated that if you’re exercising, it makes you feel good and it can improve your mental health.

We have two sessions a week called ‘Sport and Social’ and we run that in conjunction with Dorset Mental Health Forum. They refer some of their people to our sessions and those individuals can benefit from both the social side and the physical side.

Those sessions are delivered on the 3G with the backdrop of the stadium and we’re able to use them to directly help lots of people in the area who struggle with their mental health.




Sport and Social

Two sessions per week

In partnership with Dorset Mental Health Forum, football sessions at Vitality Stadium for adults who have been affected by mental health. A safe space to play football, build confidence and engage with others.

Talking Cherries

One session per fortnight

A fan-led open forum, currently via Zoom, for people to talk and share or simply sit and listen. A lot of discussion is about AFC Bournemouth and football in general.

Senior Cherries

One session per month

Opportunities for older members of the community to come together and get involved in different activities, included quizzes, coffee mornings and walks. Helps to build friendships and stay active.


Three sessions per week

In partnership with the Wessex Cancer Trust, a group discussion for men affected by Cancer to come together to talk. Topics range from those associated with the illness to general discussion.


Ten-week programme

A ten-week fitness programme for men at Vitality Stadium on a Thursday evening. All outdoor based activities to help improve fitness and wellbeing – the next round of sessions begin on 1st July.


We also have ‘Talking Cherries’ which is our fan-led supporter group and it’s growing from strength to strength. People meet regularly for chats to check in with each other. They have a website, social media pages and the amount of people getting involved with it has been growing, especially with lockdown.

It’s been great to see that it’s had such an impact on people and that it’s growing. They’ve had that support system and within that group, a number of the founding members have now themselves qualified in mental health first aid, so they can support other fans.

It’s been a really great feeling for our staff, who have also done that mental health first aid course, so when we’re in and around schools or delivering other community sessions, it’s really fantastic that we’ve got the knowledge, and members of ‘Talking Cherries’ have got the knowledge to help those who need it.

For me, the most important thing is connecting with people and that feeling that there are people with like-minded thoughts. You want to come together and share ideas, even just having someone to talk to or socialise with can help. 

Within the community, we like to have practical sessions that combine that physical activity and mental health, so I think socialising and the physical activity are the two most important areas for us.

We like to create positive environments in order to have these conversations, so if we’re going to talk about it, it’s really important to have the training and that knowledge to back it up.

You’ve seen it in sport over the years, where it’s not been the more frequently talked about topic amongst athletes. I think it’s been great that recently we’ve been able to talk about it and we’ve got some really high-profile people talking about which puts it in the spotlight.

The more people that feel confident to come and talk about their mental health and say that they aren’t doing ok, the better it is because there’s lots of different ways and organisations that they can be supported by.  

Within our Community Sports Trust, we offer a number of programmes and sessions to aid those struggling or recovering from mental health issues. A full list can be found in the table above. 

For more information or to get involved, please email head of community Steve Cuss on [email protected]

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