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Gloves off on fighting mental health issues at boxing club

By Dominic Robertson | Features | Published:

A boxing club is launching a series of dedicated sessions to try and help men with mental health issues, while getting physically fit.

It is hoped people will be able to open up and talk at boxing sessions in Shifnal

The sessions, which are being launched by Bright star Boxing Academy in Shifnal, will run every Saturday at 1.30pm, starting this weekend).

The Old Smithfield club’s director, Joe Lockley, explained that he had wanted to set up the sessions after learning of the scale of mental health issues affecting men.

He said: “It is the first time we have done the sessions specifically for people with poor mental health.

Coach Joe Lockley at Bright Star Boxing Academy in Shifnal

“I read a stat in the newspaper that said the most common cause of death in males under the age of 45 is suicide – that is the most common cause of premature death and I just thought “we can support here”.

“I did some research and spoke to charities like Mind, and asked them and they said it is most often that men do not talk about the problems that they have, so that is one of the ideas with these sessions, to provide a place where men can talk if they want.”

Joe said they had already carried out some similar sessions, and they had provided a way for some participants to open up.

He said: “Boxing as a sport is seen as something where you have to be a big tough, manly guy, I am 6ft 7ins, 110kg, but when I started to talk about my story and other people did then they really started to open up.”

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Joe, who recently appeared in an advert as an opponent to heavyweight superstar Anthony Joshua, said the sessions are free to make sure anyone can access them.

He said: “One of the key points is no one talks and no one can afford the sessions. So we decided let’s have free sessions, get them chatting and get them boxing.

“People do not have to come and talk about their problems but we want to create an environment where people feel like they can if they want to.

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Joe, right, hopes the sessions will provide valuable support

“It would also be great if we can create a Whatsapp group where people at the sessions can continue to support each other.”

The sessions, which last for an hour to an hour and a half, will be split into three or four parts.

Joe said they would start by looking at technique and hitting the heavy bag to get the endorphins going and would then take a 15 minute break where people can talk if they want.

They will also involve sessions where participants learn pad combinations, with Joe adding: “We will work on some activities like pad work that look really good – combos that are great but are quite simple to learn.”

There will then be another opportunity to rest and talk before more cardio work designed to improve people’s physical condition.

Anyone interested in taking part can either turn up at the club on the day, and can join at any session, or they can call Joe on 07966 416267 to find out more information.

Boxing saved my life, says former soldier

A former Welsh Guard suffering from PTSD has told how boxing sessions potentially saved his life and helped him become himself again.

Stuart Cook, 31, and from Brookside in Telford, has urged people struggling with mental health problems to consider joining dedicated sessions starting at the Bright Star Boxing Academy in Shifnal on Saturday.

Stuart Cook

Stuart served with the Welsh Guard for five years and toured Afghanistan in 2009. During the tour he survived three landmine blasts, one rocket propelled grenade attack and a heavy machine gun round that was stopped inches from his head by bullet proof glass.

He explained how he had first joined up with the club after a friend suggested signing up for a white collar boxing event where participants train for six weeks then take part in a fight.

He said: "When I first started I was 23 stone, could barely walk because I had a back injury and I was still on medication for PTSD.

"Now I have lost seven stone, I am not on any medication or treatment for PTSD, because it has helped me that much."

Stuart explained that after starting training for the white collar event his family had noticed the improvement in his state of mind.

He said: "I got on with Joe and the other training staff really well and I noticed I was improving, my family noticed that I could go places, talk to people, because I used to cut people off. Basically I started being me again."

Therapy

Stuart said that prior to joining up with the club he had reached a point where he feared what the outcome may be.

He said: "On the mental health side I was at the point where I was either going to end up losing everyone or killing myself."

He told how after initially being diagnosed with PTSD he was given cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) at the veteran's centre at Audley Court in Newport, but that he "could not handle it" at the time.

He was provided with further help from another organisation but said it was only through the boxing training that he had been able to find some peace.

He said: "When I started the boxing, the way they are and getting the aggression out, I went from being in limbo to being able to apply the CBT and come off my medication. The confidence it has given me is enough to get back in touch with people and become a normal person again."

Stuart urged anyone facing mental health issues not to give up, and to consider joining the sessions.

He said: "To anyone struggling I would say never give up. there is always someone there to help you, even if you can't see it."

He added: "Give it a go. What is the worst that can happen, it can never be worse than you are."

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