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Hunty's Column: An Interview With Chief Executive Of Mental Health Football Association (Part 2)

Find out how Colin Dolan is battling his mental health problems.

Read Part One of the interview with Colin Dolan here.


Sometimes a change of scenery can make a difference, or it can make life a whole lot harder. Thanks to the long term support of his partner Michelle, Colin moved to Madrid and partied for a year (well we are bloody good at that).

He became unwell and ended up in a psychiatric hospital where not many others spoke English.

"I spent a lot of time thinking in solitude that was good for me, and for the first time started to recognise and understand the traits of my illness."

Football also became a factor.

"I spent a lot of time on the hospital's football pitch playing imaginary football. No ball, but thinking about positions and players." Quite appropriate for a psychiatric hospital that he said was "the Spanish version of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest".

He also got "lucky" as he found a psychiatrist that he could talk to and helped him understand more about his condition.

Colin still dealt with the ups and downs of his illness and also being overweight and growing older when Michelle encouraged him to join in Everton FC's community mental health programme "Imagine Your Goals".

The initial anxiety about players being better than him soon passed.

"First session I kicked a ball, won a tackle, and it was the best feeling ever. I got the bug for playing football again in my late 40s." He became a volunteer at the club then whilst awaiting an operation started to look online to see what other organisations were doing in relation to football and social inclusion so they could be linked together.

His inspiration, Johnnie Garside, runs the programme at Everton. "He's a man who goes beyond the call of duty. He knows when to leave you alone and when you need an arm around your shoulder."

What will the forming of the association mean?

"We want organisations such as NHS Trusts, Football Club's Community Trusts, Mental Health and Community Inclusion programmes to become associate members, where Community Psychiatric Nurses can refer people to a local programs if they feel that they could benefit from it.

"It is not recognised as a disability sport but there will be an English team competing for the first time this season in the Mental Health & Wellbeing FA Cup in Liverpool this September against Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"For the past two years at least once a month, I have had a number of current or ex-players confide in me about their own issues."

So why is it not out in the open at clubs?

"Can you imagine, in a changing room, if a manager knows that a player has had mental health issues? Sadly, he will always pick the well one, that's the attitude of the players.

"Football can be used as part of the recovery process or as part of ongoing therapy for those affected by mental ill health."

At Mental Health Football Association "Together We Are Stronger, Together We Inspire, Together We're Better".

Colin is currently working on a programme to help educate youth teams and coaches around the country which will hopefully benefit the next generation.

As for his own ambitions? "I'm aiming for a hat trick of winners medals in the European Association for Sport and Social Integration Cup, our Champions League if the knees work, and then I can go out on a high."

And as for his illness?

"I've learnt to cope with it and accept it, so if I have, so can you!"

Thank you Colin for inspiring me. If this interview helps even just one person get the help they need them it's been worth it .


If you want to find out more about social inclusion programmes in your area, please do not hesitate to contact Colin on Facebook "Mental Health Football Association", visit their website, or follow them on Twitter @soccer_4_all.