For the past 14 years the Middway Cobras football club has operated as an all-inclusive social and recreational opportunity for those marginalised by symptoms of mental illness in Melbourne’s South East. The Middway Cobras compete each year in the Reclink competition which brings groups across the state who are facing hardship together, for friendly competition, and to build relationships.
The lengthy period between the conclusion of one football season and the start of the next, can be an isolating time for those engaged with the club. This project is aiming to establish a year round program to enable team members to ‘stay together’ and participate in off-season activities; remaining active and engaged.
In addition to expanding the benefits of the team to include the off-season, this project will support increasing the team’s membership and stability, through purchasing equipment to prepare for and allow new members to become involved and feel the benefits that being a part of a team has to offer.
25 participants were involved in the project. These participants were involved by; planning the activities in governance group meetings or through consultation, participating in planned activities, supporting activities through volunteering.
Team membership almost doubled, from about 18 at the beginning to 30. Seven volunteers successfully completed Mental Health First Aid by end of June. Team members were also trained to use public transport into the city and they felt more confident to use public transport for longer journeys. Service Resources were made available at the clubrooms during training and on game day and key Ermha staff were available to provide information or support.
It was difficult to engage with transport services who were willing to participate and had the capacity to attend MHFA training courses. As an alternative, existing staff, volunteers and team leadership members were engaged to drive bus and were provided with Mental Health First Aid training.
The peer driven sporting and recreational model engaged with those in the community who were not aware of services or support that was available to them.
The implementation the project increased the awareness of services available in the community for team members, supporters and volunteers to access if they were experiencing or caring for someone with a mental illness. Mental Health First Aid training provided volunteers with knowledge and information about how to better provide support to the football community.