How Community and Sports Play a Critical Role in the Mental Health Recovery Process

A new study looking at the role of social recovery highlights the importance of community when dealing with difficult life situations.

Jessica Janze
15
341

A new study, published in the Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Mental Health, explores the importance of social inclusion in the process of recovery from mental health and or substance abuse challenges. The study authors, led by Esther Ogundipe from the University of South-Eastern Norway, highlight the importance of social recovery in a street football (soccer) program the leveraged the community and camaraderie of sports toward improved mental health.

Social recovery takes into account a person’s social contexts. Thus, the impact of culture and the structural elements of our socio-economic-political system is seen as relevant. The concept of social recovery demands for health services, policymakers, and practitioners to look beyond the person, and consider issues of social justice and social inclusion,” Ogundipe and colleagues explain.

While the understanding of recovery has shifted over time, a dominant narrative remains that centers individual responsibility and minimizes social processes. However, a growing trend is moving away from individualistic ideas and toward an understanding of recovery that is about living a life of meaningful participation and belonging in the community. The authors write:

Another way of understanding social recovery is by referring to what is essential to us all as human beings; being loved, being with others, loving someone, and having fun. Central in social recovery is that the person is first and foremost seen and understood as a citizen, living in the community and being an active agent in his or her life processes as opposed to a victim of a disease.”

A prominent focus of social recovery in the current literature is through sport, particularly street football (or soccer). The authors of the present article highlight previous studies that have drawn links between street football and the five concepts of recovery: Connectedness, Hope and optimism, Identity, Meaning and purpose, and Empowerment (CHIME).

The Football Association in Norway is an example of a social inclusion program where anyone with a mental health and or substance abuse problem can join. Their goal is “to facilitate a meaningful everyday life for the players.” The teams provide players with meaning and the opportunity to develop new coping skills.

While these types of community efforts are gaining traction, more research is needed to understand the connection between street football teams and the recovery process. Ogundipe and the study authors aimed to explore the relationship between the recovery process for those who experience mental health and or substance abuse challenges and their participation in street football teams.

In their study, Ogundipe and colleagues utilized the method of focus groups to explore their research questions. Eight focus groups were conducted between May and September 2018, which included over 50 participants. All participants were involved in the street football teams and were experiencing mental health and or substance abuse challenges. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using thematic content analysis.

Findings of the qualitative study produced three themes: (1) The spirit of the football team, (2) More than just a pitch, and (3) The country’s best follow-up system.

The spirit of the football team: Participants discussed how they felt free to be themselves, supported by their coaches and teammates, and a sense of belonging in a community as they are. One participant explained, “You can be yourself. You don’t need to pretend. If you have a bad day, then you have a bad day. You do not need to pretend.”
More than just a pitch: This theme captures how the participants felt stronger as they played, learned to trust their body, and gained a new sense of confidence in their abilities. Additionally, the theme captures how the individual turns from a self-centered focus to a team approach. In participants’ words: “You tend to only think about yourself. But on the football pitch, you are a part of a team, and you need to pay attention to the team’s and co-players’ needs and preferences.” And, “If someone is having a hard time, then we try to encourage him. That’s kind of the point.”
The country’s best follow-up system: The football teams provided participants meaningful participation while working through recovery. Since the specific teams were focused on recovery, they partnered with a variety of health and welfare services. The street football team provides avenues to addressing bigger issues that the individual may be struggling with. A participant stated, “Everything from living situation to, or if something else comes up, then it can get addressed right away, you get help. Something gets put in motion.”

In conclusion, the street football teams do not work as an island for recovery, instead, they connect individuals with others, give them a sense of meaning, and help them access services to make long term changes in their lives. While street football teams are just one example of social recovery, the concept is promising for those dealing with difficult life situations.

The study authors conclude with a quote from Pat Deegan in Realizing recovery:

“What matters in recovery is not whether we’re using services or not using services; using medications or not using medications. What matters in terms of a recovery orientation is, are we living the life we want to be living? Are we achieving our personal goals? Do we have friends? Do we have connections with the community? Are we contributing or giving back in some way?’’

 

****

Ogundipe, E., Borg, M., Thompson, T., Knutsen, T., Johansen, C., & Karlsson, B. (2020). Recovery on the Pitch: Street Football as a Means of Social Inclusion. Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Mental Health, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40737-020-00185-6 (Link)

15 COMMENTS

  1. “What matters in recovery is not whether we’re using services or not using services; using medications or not using medications. What matters in terms of a recovery orientation is, are we living the life we want to be living? Are we achieving our personal goals? Do we have friends? Do we have connections with the community? Are we contributing or giving back in some way?’’

    What matters is not judging people based on an ideal. Perhaps that kid’s physiology is such that he cannot achieve a feeling of success in a soccer game. Perhaps he wants to succeed, perhaps he feels jaded that his body or co-ordination won’t co-operate.
    Perhaps his brain does not memorize or learn like the next kid. Perhaps he is not popular because of his shyness resulting from not being able to compete or participate in the same capacity.

    So perhaps he goes on to develop sadness or dissapointment, and as an adult, he is presented with further ideals of what even “recovery” looks like.

    Every animal society has ideals. What is supposed to differentiate human from all other groups is the capacity to think, and think further than.
    These recovery parameters are limiting, as was the thought that went into them, limited.

    In an ideal world that has been proposed by psychology and psychiatry, we are to reach a point that was stipulated by them. If that point is not reached, then the rest is “mental illness”.

    • “What matters is not judging people based on an ideal.” But my psychologists and psychiatrists wanted to murder and steal from those of us who were “living the dream” as well. Except our child was, unbeknownst to me, until the medical evidence of the abuse of my child was finally handed over, did deal with the abuse of our child outside our home.

      I’m pretty certain the psychiatric system’s goal is to drug up as many Americans as possible, and destroy America from within. Listen to, at least the last few words, although the whole interview is interesting, of this interview.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytxXZViW5C0

  2. In fact I have noticed that EVERY single concept to do with “mental health” as some standard, will leave many people being seen as failures, as “ill”, as some form of substandard human and those will be held against them in ALL other “care” institutions.
    The result for many is suicide. And to pretend that being shunned and treated as substandard will not lead to final decisions, is simply not giving a shit.
    We have to stop those that further alienate people. Many therapists fully participate in this further alienation and the pretentious word “stigma” that was adopted by psychiatry is an attempt to hide the fact that they themselves stigmatize others. They really don’t “like” their subjects. They participate in vile gossip, pretending it’s “medical talk”. It is never “medical talk” between colleagues, because they realize that they cannot successfully lie to each other, so they mostly make it about the subject personally…It would be a rare thing for a shrink to actually like the people that come to see them. I doubt they like anyone and hold harsh judgments even for their own family members and colleagues.

    Funny how this is not “relevant” to the article, yet it must be. Why would we be talking about “recovery” if they did not surmise that there is an “illness” to recover from. Of course we can always call it “injury”, but hold the same haughty perceptions.

  3. “the five concepts of recovery: Connectedness, Hope and optimism, Identity, Meaning and purpose, and Empowerment (CHIME).”

    The goal of “mental health” system has been, for decades, to isolate people. “Give up all your activities and concentrate on the meds.” Good thing I knew that was bad advice from my former psychologist.

    “Bipolar is a lifelong, incurable genetic mental illness.” That lie from my “mental health” workers had as its goal, taking away all my – and my family’s – hope and optimism.

    My “mental health” workers, who did not know me, declared me to be “w/o work, content, and talent,” prior to looking at my work. Once they finally bothered to look at my work, it was declared “work of smart female,” and “insightful.” But automatically assuming a person is “w/o work, content, and talent” is a way of attempting to minimize/diminish one’s identity. Now my work, with the truth attached to it, as opposed to the psychiatrists lies, is so terrifyingly “too truthful” and “prophetic” that another psychologist recently attempted to steal all my work and money.

    My first psychologist had hoped to steal my young children, according to her medical records. Since I was a young mom when I was attacked by child abuse covering up “mental health” workers, my children were what gave meaning and purpose to my life.

    The purpose of stigmatizing and massively neurotoxic poisoning / tranquilizing a person is to defame and disempower the person.

    The current DSM paradigm of “care” is 100% the opposite of a recovery paradigm of care. It’s a gas lighting system, which is a mental abuse system, not a “mental health care” system.

    • SE, way to go to stand up and be counted! I believe all they said
      to you and encouraged. They encourage one to be helpless and feeling worse, after all
      it signifies that “mental illness”.
      Who would have thought that being called a piece of crap, and it meaning something to everyone one will ever meet, would cause one to feel very discouraged.
      I am still in shock that this is going on in a time when people sit around in coffee shops contemplating the world. I am convinced now that we are going backwards.

      I’m kind of sad that people raised their kids to be such non thinking individuals. Perhaps it is a form of child abuse to raise kids who feel so disengaged from the world that they believe anyone who is different from them is lower on the spectrum, or ill or bad. I still feel that if they truly believe, then it must be a hatred of some kind.
      One cannot possibly dish this abuse and lies out without hating on something very deeply.

      • “I’m kind of sad that people raised their kids to be such non thinking individuals. Perhaps it is a form of child abuse to raise kids who feel so disengaged from the world that they believe anyone who is different from them is lower on the spectrum, or ill or bad.”

        That’s what the “mental health” workers were all taught to believe.

        I did not raise my children to believe that, but my children were brainwashed in their schools. But my child does now have a job working for the VA, and he does know I stand against psychiatry and psychology, for good reason.

        Let’s hope and pray a better world is brought about, since the psychological and psychiatric industry’s systemic child abuse covering up crimes for the mainstream religions, is quite appalling.

        I still pray for justice.

        • SE, very cool. My son took got his BA in psych. I think he took it because he is not motivated for doing hardcore stuff like architecture lol..He works for children…. in a special school for failing being indoctrinated into the mainstream. Wish I could share more, let’s say that the kids are in good hands with him and are lucky. He never was judgmental, and he has heard every argument from me plus articles I send my kids. I want them to be informed in case they need to reach for that info.
          It is always there to be accessed and to broaden their outlook.

          It was extremely important for me to share what I know, because he works with vulnerable people. They do have a psychologist on staff, who he promises me that I would like. 🙂
          So I hear you and I’m certain what your kids learn from you, some will be of some value at some point.

          As far as justice, I’ve heard somewhere that it rains on the just and the unjust. And sometimes it pours.

  4. Sports would work if you were good enough at it to be on the team, but it could work against your needs if you weren’t as good a player as they wanted. It doesn’t have to be sports, it could anything where you were found equally acceptable as the others. It’s hard to find such things in our competitive society. We make everything about who is better. Sports, writing, being an astronaut, commenting, it doesn’t matter about your feelings, it’s where you are in the ratings of how well you did.

LEAVE A REPLY