In Thurrock, Chris’s ‘Moment that Mattered’ was a transformative one. Having battled issues with alcohol, drugs, and gambling, Chris turned his life around in 2012. He didn’t stop at self-recovery; he channelled his experiences into creating a support system for others. He founded a football club, Turning Corners, aimed at helping men combat addiction and mental health issues.
Chris said, “So many people have invested time and effort into me. My spirit is cleansed completely from what I do, and all I’m doing is turning up and being myself.” The club isn’t just about football; it’s a sanctuary that supports a community of recovery and wellbeing. According to Chris, those 90 minutes on the football pitch are “the best 90 minutes of my week.”
Healthcare organisations in Thurrock saw the value in what Chris was doing and partnered to support Turning Corners. This has made more personalised care available, including peer-to-peer support, thereby preventing crises and achieving better outcomes for community health.
Chris’s unique way of engaging with people who might otherwise slip through the cracks shows the importance of community-led initiatives in health and care. He concluded, “What really keeps people well is their connections with each other… and that’s exactly what Turning Corners does.”
Chris’ story transcript
In mid and south Essex, we’re exploring the benefits of joined up working in health and care through the eyes of local people.
Chris lives in Thurrock. Following a difficult upbringing growing up in Lancashire, Chris developed issues with alcohol, drugs and gambling. After years of struggling, he sought help and became clean and sober in 2012 after moving to Essex. His moment that mattered was getting support from local health and care organisations to set up a football club called Turning Corners.
“The club aims to support men with addiction issues and helps them to turn their lives around for the better. When I was using and drinking drugs and alcohol and all the rest of it and gambling, I had no direction. I had no purpose. Basically, my life was just had nowhere; death, institutions or jail, and I’ve turned off the road just in time with so much help from so many different people.”
“So many people that have invested time and effort into me to get me where I’m at now. I never really believed in my heart of hearts that I was going to end up with a good job, that I loved. And I believe, not that I’m doing this for any type of, like, to be paid because I don’t get paid. Like I get paid so much more than money doing what I’m doing. My spirit is cleansed completely from what I do, and all I’m doing is turning up and being myself. In the hope that it gives other people that belief that they can be themselves. We always make sure that everybody is alright because not most blokes like to come out openly and say, yeah, “I’m having a bad time” or “I’ve had a drink” or whatever. The development beyond just football has been extraordinary. The development of that community of recovery, that community of people who help each other not just with addictions but mental health, is extremely powerful.”
Someone like Chris is using that lived experience to help other people, and it really has, the whole project has exceeded my expectations, and Chris’ ability to draw people in has also exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t be prouder. Coming here is more for me just an escape from everything. It means so much to me now. I actually look forward to Fridays and look forward to the football days and the different events that we have and seeing the lads and having a kick about. It means a lot, considering it’s 90 minutes out of my week it’s probably the best 90 minutes of my week. So it means it means the world to me.
With Chris, it was evident right from the start that he had this very unique way of engaging with people and Turning Corners is about how Chris engages with men who wouldn’t normally engage with formal services, he reaches out to people that might just slip through the net. And that’s the importance of what Chris is trying to achieve here.
“In spite of my own struggles, I’m able to help people put their mind at rest and help them fit into a group of people that’s good for them. It’s a safe environment for people to, yeah, to grow and to find some happiness in their life without feeling pressured to use drink or drugs or, or all things that are not very good and all leads to bad mental health.
Health and care organisations working together to support community projects like Turning Corners means: more personalised care, enabling peer to peer support for people experiencing similar issues. It will prevent ill health to help people take control, tackle issues early on and avoid them ending up in a crisis situation and achieving better outcomes, delivering support in the community to improve people’s health and wellbeing.
“People need good stuff in the community. There’s always a place for formal services, but what really keeps people well is their connections with each other. But, you know, if we can connect people and build on really good relationships so that people have their own natural support in the community, that’s the good stuff that keeps people well. And that’s exactly what Turning Corners does.”
Mid and South Essex Integrated Care System. Together we can make the moments that matter.