Head 4 Health programme moves online during pandemic

Wolves Foundation are stepping up their campaign to promote mental and physical wellbeing in men by taking their Head 4 Health programme online for ‘extra-time’ during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The successful initiative which offers a mixture of physical activities, workshops and ‘extra-time’ sessions is one of the many and wide-ranging activities run by the Foundation which has to be put on hold due to lockdown restrictions.

But an online version is now off and running ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, which has been organised by the Mental Health Foundation along the theme of ‘kindness’, and runs from 18th-24th May.

“Our Head 4 Health programme is usually a six-week cohort offering physical activity sessions including football, cricket, walking and badminton, as well as workshops focusing on good mental health, alcohol awareness and coping with stress,” says Rachel Smith, health and wellbeing manager with the Wolves Foundation.

“The programme also included extra-time sessions for men to come and talk to others in a relaxed and informal environment, and at the end of each six-week programme, participants were encouraged to keep in touch and continue to attend activities organised by the Wolves Foundation.

“We are into the second year of the programme now, and have had some excellent feedback from so many men who have been able to improve their mental and physical wellbeing and feel more able to talk and share their feelings about any problems or issues they are facing.

“The last few months with the coronavirus and the lockdown restrictions has been a very difficult time for so many people with concerns about catching the virus but also mental health worries connected to those concerns and also being in isolation.

“We are pleased to have been able to set up this online cohort, ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, where we can talk with participants about any issues they may have or coping strategies to help them during these challenging times.

“We had been keeping in touch with many who had attended sessions on an informal basis, but have now opened the programme up so that even while we can’t meet and deliver activities face to face, we can provide support and a listening ear in a different way.

“We are also offering Check in & Chat sessions to anyone who just wishes to chat to others, especially football fans who may be missing the football-shaped hole in their life at the moment!”

Head 4 Health is very much a team effort with the Foundation linking up with the City of Wolverhampton’s Public Health team and receiving funding not just from the Council but also the Premier League, Professional Footballers Association and Wolverhampton CCG.

Improving mental health in men is an initiative which has also received Royal approval and, back in February, Head 4 Health participant Dean travelled to London and met HRH The Duke of Cambridge who was spearheading two Heads Up Weekends to help football unite and create conversations around mental health.

One of those who is taking advantage of the current online sessions is John, who is pleased to have somewhere to turn to during such challenging times.

“I’ve recently joined the online cohort as unfortunately the face-to-face sessions can’t be delivered at the moment,” he says.

“I’m so glad they have provided an online option to help bridge the gap and allow me to chat with others in a similar situation.

“I’m definitely still going to attend the face-to-face one as well!”