Thurrock resident and recovering addict, Chris Shields is the founder of Turning Corners a community football project. The project brings together men of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to become part of a community and to talk with like-minded men who may have experienced substance misuse, social exclusion, mental health issues, or just love to play football.
Chris’s story is the latest in series of case studies from Mid and South Integrated Care System that demonstrate the benefits of organisations working together to support local people.
Chris set the project up in collaboration with health and care organisations in mid and south Essex. It’s gone from strength to strength with now over 50 people from the ages of 18 upwards meeting at Lakeside Sports Ground every Friday. He also set up a WhatsApp for the club during the COVID-19 lockdown so if someone is struggling, they can reach out to Chris or the other guys in the group.
Chris, originally from Morecombe in Lancashire, didn’t have an easy upbringing and had issues with alcohol, drugs, gambling and had seen three of his friends die as a result of their addiction issues.
“When I was using drugs, drinking alcohol and gambling, I had no direction, I had no purpose and basically my life was just heading nowhere. I felt I was destined to die, or lose my mind, end up in an institutions or jail, but I’ve turned off the road just in time with so much help from so many different people”.
“In spite of my own struggles, I’m able to help others to fit into a group that’s good for them. It’s a safe environment for people to grow and to find some happiness in their lives.”Chris, Turning Corners
Chris has now been clean and sober for a number of years and he puts it down to the people who have supported him including “his little warrior Nana” who supported him up until her passing from cancer as well as local health and care professionals from Riverside Community, Local Area Coordinators from Thurrock Council and Inclusion Visions Thurrock.
Richard Jacklin was Chris’s Community Connector at Inclusion Visions Thurrock and has supported and worked with Chris and Active Essex to initially set up Turning Corners.
The development beyond just football has been extraordinary. It’s a community of recovery, of people who help each other not just with addictions, but also mental health and that is extremely powerful. Chris is using his lived experience to help other people and with his ability to draw people in he has exceeded my expectations; I couldn’t be prouder.”Richard Jacklin, Inclusion Visions Thurrock
Turning Corners is a community project and has received funding from The Wave Suicide Prevention Community Fund, because of its focus on men who are the group most at risk of suicide.
“‘We know men under 50 are more at risk of mental health issues, substance misuse problems and suicide and are less likely to come forward for help. Turning Corners offers another opportunity to bring men together and give them a shared goal and a space to talk and get support.”Cllr Deb Huelin, Thurrock Council Cabinet Member for Adults and Health
“The work Chris has been doing with Turning Corners to support other men’s mental health, as well as his own, is truly inspirational. We know that in the UK suicide is the leading cause of death in men under 50 which is why community projects like this are so important in enabling men to support each other and to breakdown the stigma. Chris is a credit to his community, and I hope Turning Corners continues to grow and change lives.”Alfred Bandakpara-Taylor, Deputy Director Adult Mental Health for NHS Mid and South Essex Integrated Care Board
Watch a short video on Chris’ story and Turning Corners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwBgVZgdjf4
Those interested in joining Turning Corners can contact Chris on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ChrisShieldsMonty