Footballer Aaron Connolly knows only too well the positive life-changing impact that sport and physical activity can have on poor mental health.
Aaron, who currently plays for St Roch’s Junior Football Club in Glasgow, tried to take his own life around two years ago following a long battle with depression.
It was a dark time but after a month-long stay in hospital Aaron has slowly started to rebuild his life, while still taking it one day at a time.
In October 2019, along with his wife Siobhan, he founded Time To Tackle, a football therapy programme, which aims to use the power of sport and physical activity to help those suffering from poor mental health.
Time To Tackle delivers weekly sessions that include an hour of football and a mental health check-in session, where members of the group are encouraged to share stories about their own challenges and experiences.
Before lockdown weekly sessions took place across Glasgow and Paisley but these have been moved online, as a result of the current restrictions. Despite the obvious challenges the sessions have never been more important to Aaron and those who take part on a weekly basis.
Aaron said: “Time to Tackle really aims to provide support to improve physical and mental health and challenge the stigma surrounding mental health but it is about so much more than that.
“We aim to promote open and honest conversations, provide a safe non-judgemental environment and create peer support networks to combat loneliness.
“My wife works alongside me running Time To Tackle and it’s really important to her. She’s been with me through all my struggles so it’s massive for her to give back too. I still have my tough times, but we’re trying to turn a negative into a positive.
“Running Time to Tackle gives me somewhere safe to enjoy playing football, which I love, but also to speak about anything going on in my mind. I’m really just trying to share that with other people and to let them know there is a way forward.”
Late last year Time To Tackle won the Merit Award in the 2020 Scottish FA Grassroots Awards. It marked another step forward for Aaron and Siobhan but despite the success Aaron remains very aware of the challenges related to poor mental health.
He said: “If you’re feeling like you’re in crisis and your thoughts are turning dark, if you’re feeling suicide is starting to become the only answer, then my message is ‘just please hold on, it will get better’.
“Everyone says it, but it is vital that you to talk. But it’s not just about talking, it’s about talking to the right person and seeking professional help where you can. It’s really important that you talk to someone you trust and someone who can help you on the journey.
“Don’t be scared of your emotions, don’t be scared to feel your emotions and certainly don’t hide from them. Talking rationally with someone can often help lead you to a better place. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it.”
Find out more
About Time To Tackle and the support they offer.