Bonnyrigg Rose Community FC (CFC) is a football club that is gaining recognition for its work championing mental health and wellbeing in Midlothian. As such, it was one of four local charities to receive a larger grant from the Midlothian Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund in 2022. A total of £36,884 was awarded via Midlothian Third Sector Interface to enable the ongoing development of services for local people, including peer support groups, mental health training courses and refurbishments to the club’s community hub building.
The way the BRCFC’s staff and trustees see it, football and mental health are deeply inter-connected. It wasn’t always this way however, because prior to 2019 the club’s main concern had been to ensure that its ageing astro-pitch was replaced. Community programmes were seen as being important, but up until that point they had been viewed as more of a side project to football related activities.
A pivotal moment came when the club held a special one-off community event in the summer of 2019, with the input of Midlothian Council’s Communities and Lifelong Learning team. At the event local people were asked about what their town needed and what they wanted from the club, by completing a survey tool known as the ‘Place Standard’. The responses gathered highlighted that Bonnyrigg lacked groups and activities for older people, as well as needing more targeted opportunities for young people. It also became clear that the club had the potential to play a role in championing grassroots mental health initiatives. This meant moving beyond a focus on sport alone, embedding themes such as wellbeing and connectedness more deeply throughout the club’s community programmes.
Since 2019 the club has worked with organisations such as Health in Mind to expand the delivery of initiatives including ‘Midlothian Men Matter’. BRCFC’s premises also provides space for several groups which help to reduce loneliness and isolation among local people. Given the high rates of suicide among young men in Scotland and the club’s ability to reach this target group through football and sport, an key date in the calendar for Bonnyrigg Rose is Suicide Prevention Week, which takes place every year in September. To raise awareness of this issue, the club has hosted free Mental Health First Aid training for anyone in Midlothian with an interest in attending. Group based coaching work with younger men who are struggling to cope has also been a feature of the club’s provision over the past 18 months, alongside school-based wellbeing programmes, yoga, free counselling and peer support activities.
We caught up with Trish Sime (Development Manager) and Jim Wilson (General Manager), a few months after they received the club’s grant from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund, to find out what has been achieved so far. Trish and Jim explained that the Fund has given them more freedom to continue linking football and mental health together by giving them additional resources – including core staffing hours – to focus in on progressing their plans for more community-based provision. Knowing that physical space is a particularly important resource and in short supply, the club got to work quickly in using their capital grant to replace old windows in the community hub building, making it a warmer and more welcoming facility. By investing in physical spaces where people can connect with each other more, the club is paving the way for further investments in community mental health and wellbeing.
Having charted the huge efforts made by BRCFC to support mental health and wellbeing in Midlothian, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) found that the impact of community participation in the club was worth an amazing £3.95 million. This commendable achievement is underpinned by UEFA’s commitment to support the club and its activities in the longer term, helping to build an even stronger foundation for the involvement of the community in helping to decide on future priorities (not just those that related to football)
Speaking about the connection between sport, community and mental health, Trish Sime told us:
“Sport brings people together. Through teamwork and a positive attitude, relationships are fostered, and trust is created. People rely on their teammates, friends, and peers to help them through challenges – both on the field and off. Using the power of football and sport in general to talk openly about mental health and to break the stigma is positive, and it’s the right thing to do.”Trish Sime
We couldn’t say it better than that, and we’re keen to see what comes next for the club because the future for BRCFC looks bright. You can follow BRCFC on Twitter or check out the main BRFC club website for more info about what they are up to.