New football therapy group to tackle growing mental health crisis

A new support group will kick off in Renfrewshire to help tackle a growing mental health crisis.

Time to Tackle, which uses football therapy to help people struggling with poor mental health, was formed by former pro-footballer Aaron Connolly and his wife Siobhán, who works as an A&E nurse at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

Aaron started the group after attempting to take his own life in April last

He battled back to health with the help of therapy and the support of his loving family and now he is determined to give something back.

The couple started Time to Tackle this time last year and it has continued to grow.

Now, in partnership with The St Mirren Charitable Foundation, a new group is set to launch at the Simple Digital Arena on November 13.

The pair were desperate to bring the concept to Paisley as Siobhán sees, on an almost nightly basis, the toll the mental health crisis is having on people.

Dad-of one Aaron, 29, told the Express: “We actually founded the group almost a year ago to the day.

“I had suffered with depression and anxiety most of my adult life and was probably undiagnosed as a child.

“In April 2019 I attempted suicide, and spent a month in a psychiatric ward in Glasgow after I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

“I came out in early June and with therapy and medicine I began to change my life.

“As that started happening I started thinking about how we could change other people’s lives too. I had played professional football at Ayr United, and then semi-professional football, so I had an understanding of the game.

“It had always been where I went, even for a couple of hours, to help me escape the heartache I felt sometimes.

“I thought about what I might need if I was struggling again and I realised it was a game of football and an open, honest chat about how you are feeling after it, with people using their experiences to help each other.

“When I looked around there didn’t seem to be anything like that.

“So my wife and I started Time to Tackle on October 30 last year.

“We had seven people come along to Rouken Glen Park in Giffnock. But it has just taken off.

“We now have 30 or 40 people down at Glasgow Green for the sessions.”

The move in to Paisley will be followed by the launch of nine other groups across the county.

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Aaron, from Newton Mearns, added: “Before lockdown we had been talking to Gayle Brannigan at the St Mirren Charitable Foundation about starting a group at the stadium and she was on board right away.

“Paisley and Renfrewshire was a priority for us from the start.

“Siobhán works in the A&E department at the RAH and sees, almost every night, a person in crisis.

“So we were really keen to get it up and running here and we are thrilled it is happening.

“We are not sure what form it will take just yet with the covid restrictions but we are launching on Friday, November 13.

“We know that there are so many people who could benefit from this group and we want to reach as many people as possible.

“This winter is going to be very hard for people so we know the group will be so important. Friendships are formed through it and it is a safe, open space for people.”

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Daily Record – Paisley