A FATHER of three is launching football sessions in Bolton to boost men’s mental health.
Dan Lilley-Blackman is the founder of Love Football which has already run successful groups in Bury and Prestwich.
Now they are be offering football sessions at Bolton Arena on Sunday evenings.
The 30-year-old set up the organisation following an attempt to take his own life in January 2018.
After attending mental health support meetings he realised that group activities were an effective way for men to talk about their experiences, or just give them something else to focus on.
Turning to football as inspiration, he started his first group in Bury which soon attracted 30-40 players each week.
Dan, who lives in Ramsbottom, said: “In January 2018 I had a breakdown, it was just after Christmas and followed the birth of my third child, I just felt so overwhelmed.
“I was referred to various mental health services and I really struggled to get back to normal, after nine months I tried to take my own life again.
“Then I was told about RammyMen, a support group based in Ramsbottom which focuses on group activities such as singing to boost mental health.
“I started to feel so much better and I realised this could help other people as well.
“I decided to organise a football session when men could come together, based on the ethos that it doesn’t matter how good you are, that it’s about building each other up.
“The sessions help boost mental health physically, as exercise releases endorphins, it lowers blood pressure and makes you feel good the next day.”
Dan currently works as a coordinator for Dad Matters, a Home-Start project based in Greater Manchester.
During lockdown he became involved with the support group Directions for Men, who organise group meetings across the North West to give men the opportunity to open up.
Although the focus of the group is football, participants are invited to get involved in conversations and Dan regularly shares his experiences with other men so that they know they are not alone in what they are going through.
He added: “We’re there to support each other. The sessions are very inclusive; there will be walking football for over 50s and a session for over 35s, as well as an all-ages session.
“You don’t have to have a mental health issue to attend, but I do understand how people can feel and we help provide that stepping stone for men to talk about their problems.
“If anyone is unsure about taking part, just go for it. Don’t hesitate to get involved. It’s not about being good at football, it’s about having fun.”
The sessions will be held on Sundays from 5.30pm until 7.30pm at Bolton Arena, they cost £4 to attend and to book on message the Facebook Page or text Dan on 0789503970.