Albion in the Community celebrated World Mental Health Day recently by kicking off a new initiative at a specially arranged five-a-side football tournament at Sussex University, with a little help from Brighton and Hove Albion star striker, Craig Mackail-Smith.
The Game Changing scheme is a joint partnership between the charity and the Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, the body responsible for mental services in Sussex, and aims to use sport and physical activity in the delivery of mental health services.
Dan Lawson, AITC's health development manager, who helped organise the tournament, said: "The event went really well, and there was a great atmosphere on the pitches. The theme for this year's World Mental Health Day was depression so we did a little bit of work with them about creating a positive mindset.
"Each team had to think of an emotion, and then say thank you for it. One lad was thanking his mum for all the times she had been there for him when he was in trouble, and it really was quite moving."
Sixty players from 11 teams across Sussex, including a number of players with experience of using mental services, participated in the tournament and were joined by Craig and guests from the NHS. Craig, who is also AITC's Health Player Ambassador helped present the winners medals to the Albion Goals project team, who won all six of their matches during the tournament.
He explained: "What we are trying to do with this campaign is make it easier for people to talk about mental health problems and break down the stigma and barriers which often surround it."
Lisa Rodrigues CBE, chief executive of the Sussex Partnership and Steve Ford, joint managing director of AITC, officially signed the new partnership agreement after the tournament.
Rodrigues, a life-long Albion fan, added: "We are proud to be working with AITC to improve people's lives and raise the profile of mental health through sport.
"We know that mental and physical health is inextricably linked. We are clinical experts in mental health but by working together with AITC we can achieve great things for the people in Sussex and beyond."
As part of the agreement, AITC will deliver football coaching and education courses to the Trust's patients as part of recovery programmes.
In addition, the partnership will see both organisations work on public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing the stigma of mental health.