Man setting up Denny football team to tackle mental health struggles

A football fan is aiming to start up a community-based team with the goal of supporting men with mental health issues.
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Gary Thorn has launched an ambitious project which he hopes will encourage those it recruits to open up to their teammates in a relaxed setting.

The 30-year-old plans to set up a team in Denny, where he stays, after being inspired by a Glasgow-based initiative which helps heavier players to get fitter, make friends and speak about any troubles they are having.

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Gary, who works as a child development officer, said: “I started playing football for a programme in Glasgow called Man Versus Fat which started a league for men who were overweight.

Denny resident Gary Thorn is starting a football team to help men struggling with mental health issues. Picture: Michael Gillen.Denny resident Gary Thorn is starting a football team to help men struggling with mental health issues. Picture: Michael Gillen.
Denny resident Gary Thorn is starting a football team to help men struggling with mental health issues. Picture: Michael Gillen.

“We would be weighed each week and it would encourage weight loss as a team. A separate team started up called Glasgow Titans.

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“It follows the Football Fans in Training programme and welcomes guys who are overweight into an 11-a-side team who specialise in helping you lose weight through consistent training and 11 and eight-a-side matches.

“I moved to Denny last year and was still playing with Titans but the travelling was becoming increasingly costly and taking up a lot of time.

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“I noticed there weren’t a lot of teams similar to the Titans in the area so I thought about doing it here but I wanted to open it up to guys who suffer with poor mental health because I always found it was a great network and you would confide in teammates.

“I want it to be something that’s recognised because it’s a growing concern and it’s known men don’t speak about their mental health as much as women and suicide rates are higher in men.”

Although it could be a while before his idea properly kicks off, Gary has been taken aback by the number of men who have contacted him to signal their interest.

Dozens have sent messages after Gary outlined his vision on Facebook, which includes affiliating the team with health and well-being advisors.

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Gary also intends to apply to be recognised by the Football Fans in Training association and would focus on playing 11 and eight-a-side matches against teams with a similar purpose.

He added: “It’s to create a support network for guys who are maybe feeling a bit isolated and people who are too afraid to talk about mental health, or guys like myself who would never get picked for a Sunday team due to my size.

“It’s really for people 18 to 60. It doesn’t matter whether it’s to drop a few pounds or improve their mental health.

“I’ve had contact from three mental health organisations which want to collaborate with us and I’ve been contacted by support groups too.

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“Don’t be afraid to ask, the door’s open. I’m more than happy to help guys out there.”

Email [email protected] for more details.

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