A local boxing programme is helping people battling depression to understand their condition better and feel like themselves again.
Knock Out Depression, a Community Interest Company (CIC) that You’ve Got This Ambassador Matthew Williams set up earlier this year, offers a unique programme of six once-weekly sessions.Having suffered from depression, Matthew wanted to utilise his experience combined with his passion for boxing to help and inspire others.
Participants receive one hour of boxing training followed by a one-hour Knock Out Depression education, discussion and support session. The live sessions are also supported by online materials, including videos and a handbook that participants can access and refer to whenever they want.
The combination of non-contact boxing, educational and peer support means people can better understand depression and ways they can manage it.
Being active and participating in sports has always been part of Matthew’s life. As a child, he was a keen runner and loved boxing, but he didn’t have the confidence to join a boxing club.
His interest in sports resulted in him studying for a degree in sports science, working in sports development, and securing a role working for England Boxing.
After going through a few challenges in his life, Matthew first experienced depression in his 30s.
“In hindsight, I can piece together some things that happened in my life that I struggled with, but there wasn’t one major thing that triggered my depression,” explained Matthew.
To help him through it, he started to write about his experience of depression, and that began to resonate with other people, and he became an advocate for depression. As a result, he got involved in high-profile mental health campaigns and published a book. But keen to do more and with a burning desire to make a difference, Matthew drew upon all his skills and experience to create the Knock Out Depression programme.
“Boxing clubs have a strong community ethos and are rooted in their communities, so they are ideally placed to run a programme like this.
“Knock Out Depression is for anyone who feels they are struggling or needs some help coping; they don’t have to have been diagnosed with depression as we want to be able to support people before they get to a crisis point”.
Initially run out of Billingham Boxing Academy, it started helping a small group of people living with depression. The response and feedback were so good that Matthew decided to give the programme its own identity so it could be rolled out to run in partnership with other boxing clubs and help many more people.
Before joining any session, Matthew reaches out through email and online videos to connect with people before their first session.
“If you’re experiencing depression, your mind is likely telling you why you shouldn’t go and why it won’t work.
“Helping people manage their thoughts is one part of what we do, as well as helping them understand that depression isn’t something that should define them, but rather that it is something that they are going through”.
“The vast majority of the people who join the programme haven’t done boxing before.
“The physical exertion of boxing helps release mood-lifting endorphins and build self-esteem and confidence whilst enabling people to have fun with others in a safe environment.
Matthew strongly believes that boxing is the ideal tool for helping those with depression overcome the most formidable opponent they might have, which is themself.
“After each session, you can physically see the difference in people, they feel stronger and more confident, and they leave with their heads that bit higher”.
Matthew also believes boxing is an excellent metaphor for life, as it helps him challenge stereotypes and break down misconceptions about how we deal with our emotions, weakness and vulnerability.
“When you’re suffering with your mental health, you often think you are the only person who feels like this, but when we get people together to talk about how they feel and participate in some physical activity, it can be a really powerful combination”.
Most people who experience depression are inactive or have been for some time, as the condition makes it difficult for them to do anything. Sessions are therefore tailored to suit individual abilities.
“We help people recognise that there are a lot of things that they can do themselves to improve their mental health, and moving their body more is one of the most important”.
Matthew’s rightly proud of how far Knock Out Depression has come in such a short time; he’s passionate about expanding the programme and keen to build more connections with social prescribers.
If you want to know more about Knock Out Depression, please visit:
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