Counterpunch programme tackling mental health problems

June 11, 2021 | by Matt Halfpenny


A boxing-led programme is winning praise after 96 per cent of those who were surveyed after attending said it had improved their mental health.

Counterpunch is run by Shropshire’s Bright Star Boxing Academy and was developed with the help of mental health charity Mind.

It bids to help the club reach out to vulnerable people, empower them and make positive changes to their lives by offering informal mental health support from its coaches – many of whom have experienced mental health problems themselves.

This is done via free Saturday sessions of around one-and-a-half hours each, which involves boxing and mentoring alongside peer support.

“It works out at about 45 minutes of boxing and 45 minutes of mental health support,” said Director Joe Lockley (pictured above). “We will sit around the ring or in the office at three different points in the session and start conversations around mental health, around what they would like to achieve and around how they are feeling.

“We have found being around those who talk about their mental health encourages others to open up and it creates an incredible atmosphere of belonging where everyone opens up.”

Joe understands that many potential participants might be put off going to a boxing club, however friendly and welcoming.

As a result, the charity actively reaches out to people in their communities.

He added: “We have a structured 12-week programme that we run out in communities. There’s a referral pathway with various organisations: housing associations, addiction recovery centres and mental health support services.

“We go through crucial elements like core beliefs, thoughts and behaviours, coping techniques and goalsetting. Participants receive mental health training and coaching qualifications. After doing the programme people are more likely to come to Counterpunch for support, because they’ve already got a relationship with us.

“When you picture boxing you picture a really muscley bloke who’s very angry and doesn’t seem to care about anything, but it’s not like that.

“Our coaches are often big lads, but they open up about their mental health problems. And seeing that vulnerability in action helps other people open up too.”

You can find out more about the Counterpunch campaign by clicking here.