Football tackles schizophrenia and depression
Source: The Guardian – UK
ROME: An Italian psychiatrist is obtaining startling results with patients suffering from schizophrenia and depression by enlisting them in a competitive football team. Mauro Raffaeli trains his players, many of whom cannot work and are on psychiatric medication, twice a week on a pitch on the outskirts of Rome.
Of the 80 who have passed through the ranks since the team formed in 1993, over half have cut down their drug intake, but more importantly, more than half have returned to work. “Drugs you can often never get rid of, but reintegrating into society is as important,” he said.
Former accountant Luca Enei saw his life “go off the rails” when depression set in, but after signing up with Dr Raffaeli’s team he returned to work as a security guard, married and had four children.
Psychology graduate and schizophrenic Benedetto Quirino was pestered by voices in his head until he became a rightwinger for Dr Raffaeli. “When you run out on the pitch, the voices stop,” he said. “Your opponent is no longer inside you, he has come out and you can dribble round him and beat him.”
Since the team was formed, 50 other squads of mental patients have sprung up around Italy, but Dr Raffaeli’s charges remain the benchmark, winning the 2006 all-Italy tournament and are now in search of international fixtures.
The team’s exploits are also the subject of a documentary film, Mad about football, which focuses on players such as Sandro Faraoni, a former presidential bodyguard who bounced back from schizophrenia to become a stalwart defender and now a painter and poet.
“Mental health sufferers are often locked inside themselves, and football allows them to open up,” said film-maker Volfango di Biasi, who wants to de-stigmatise illnesses such as schizophrenia in the film.