Yorkshire footballers are helping research children’s mental health

Footballers are helping Yorkshire 
researchers learn more about children’s 
mental health. Catherine Scott reports.

Researchers are using exercise and sport to look at children's mental well being

Children aged between 11 and 18 are being recruited to take part in new research looking at their mental health.

Grounded Research, the research team at RDaSH (Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humberside NHS Trust), are launching a new study which will look at common mental health problems in children and young people, why they are experienced and how they can be reduced.

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The Home Goals trial will create virtual therapy groups that will be delivered online and combined with a short physical activity session run by a local football player.

It aims to improve the mental and emotional wellbeing of children and young people taking part in the trial, teaching them about the brain, how we experience emotions and how we can cope with them.

Each therapy group will run for one hour after school for six weeks. The first half hour will focus on physical activity led Bradford City Football Club or Scunthorpe United Football Club.

The physical health aspect of the groups encompasses a broad range of physical activities, adapted to try at home.

The second half of the session will focus on ‘psychoeducation’ – a process which looks to help people better understand mental health conditions.

These groups will enable young people to learn about how and why anxiety and depression occur, and how we can learn ways of managing them.

They will be led by NHS staff such as a mental health nurse, psychiatrist, psychologist and psychological well-being practitioners.

Dr Victoria Laker, who is leading on the trial for Grounded Research says: “Everyone can experience emotions such as stress, worry and low mood. But with the Covid-19 pandemic, support for children and young people feeling this way is especially stretched.

“We would like to recruit children and young people between 11 and 18 years old who experience feelings of stress, worry or low moods and who would benefit from participating in research looking at improving these feelings. Our study could benefit someone you know and care for.

“We’d say to parents that your child will hopefully start to understand why they feel sad and anxious, and that it’s normal to feel these sometimes. They will learn ways to control these feelings, whether that be mentally, or physically, through exercise or breathing techniques. This research also allows access to psychological intervention without a referral into CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and the long wait associated with that.

“The different physical exercises the young people will do include boxercise, high intensity interval training, yoga and stretch, invisible football, and chair based exercises. These are all designed to get the young people’s heart rates up, release endorphins and help boost their moods – and allow the study to test to see whether these activities reduce sad feelings and anxiety, which is the overall purpose of the study.””

The trial is supported by Active Humber and The Yorkshire Sport Foundation.

Both organisations have been instrumental in the development of Home Goals as a trial, providing funding, advice and support around the creation of the project and making it accessible to all young people in the area.

Debra Cummins, Development Manager at The Yorkshire Sport Foundation says: “We’re delighted to support such an important trial.

“Sport is a powerful way to engage young people, and as well as this allowing them to access the additional support they need, research tells us that being physically active plays a significant role in better mental health and wellbeing.”

Children and young people must attend a school within the Rotherham, Doncaster, North Lincolnshire or Bradford locality and have access to a PC, laptop, smart phone or tablet.

Participants will be asked to complete questionnaires and they will be entered into prize draws for £20 and £50 amazon vouchers.

Email [email protected] to find out more.