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How football transformed my life

According to the Football Association there are millions of people involved in grassroots football, right now, with mental health problems.

And one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any year.

Tashi Thornley, who plays for Formby Community Football Club, has experienced this first-hand.

She was reluctant to go and try out at first, so it was her mum who "dragged" her there - something which Tashi says completely transformed her life.

Tashi said: “At first I couldn't bring myself to go. I was depressed, I didn't want to leave the house, I had no social life, I had no friends around me because I'd stopped contacting people. Eventually my mum managed to drag me to one of the sessions and I just loved it straight away. It gave me a focus, it's not even just the actual playing - obviously, exercise increases endorphins - but it has become like a family I've got now.”

Tashi was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2014 but had suffered with her mental health since she was a child.

She said her mental health worries were "brushed off" as teenage angst.

“I was self harming in school and they just kind of brushed it off. I didn't grow out of it and 20 years later, it still affects my health.”

Early intervention and the ability to talk about mental health openly is something that Tashi is passionate about.

“People are scared, there's still a lot of stigma around mental health. For years I would hide and not want to let people know, I thought I'd be weak if people knew how I was feeling. But when you bottle things up that can make things a lot worse. I think it's important to advocate mental health and encourage and share stories, so people know that they're not on their own, in particular children.”

Tashi gave up football when she was 14 and now reflects on how long she has been out of the game.

“I was a bit gutted I put it off for so long to be honest. It has literally, completely transformed my life. I moved on from the FCFC Tigers, I just started loving it, I wanted to do more and more and more so I trained for the 11-a-side because there's a game every Sunday.”

Since joining Formby Community Football Club Tashi has now been appointed to the committee and has input into the future running of the club.

“I love everything the club stands for within the community, raising money, raising awareness. We've got age 3 up to 86. I've seen how the teams I've been in have developed, it's great to be able to give feedback and have a say and actually make a difference.”

Tashi explains how football helped her mental health improve.

“I wasn't going out or talking about how I felt, I was locking myself away, but the more I started playing for the Tigers the more comfortable I felt not actually hiding how I feel because everyone is really, really supportive.”

“But it's also helped me to go out to other social things, I joined a mental health programme called Liverpool Football Therapy. Taking that first step has given me the confidence in how I was playing but also to go out and meet new people. I play football as much as I can now to be honest.”

Tashi has some advice to anyone who is wanting or thinking about playing football who maybe didn't feel like they could

“I think the hardest thing is to actually make that first step. If you can find a way, whether it's someone to drag you out the house. It'll never be as bad as you think. Once you take that first step, or even just little steps, at first maybe just walk to where it is, or even do part of the journey.”

“Break it down into tiny steps if you need to. Recognise what each step means. I can guarantee, especially with FCFC, once you make the first step you won't look back.”



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