Monday, January 08, 2007

One of Those Feel-Good Stories

The Guardian has a neat story today about people with schizophrenia and depression who appear to benefit from playing soccer (football).

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.

Obviously, this is not tightly controlled research. But it does back my intuitive sense and observations as well as some research (the research is only relevant to people with depression) indicating that physical activity is good for one’s mental health. In this case, I think the combination of physical activity with teamwork helps to provide a sense of meaning – hey, I’m part of a team! People are counting on me. Et cetera.

I’m all for more creative interventions for schizophrenia and/or depression. The drugs and psychotherapy that are currently provided are unfortunately not getting the job done, so it’s nice to see someone trying something unconventional that is likely to not result in many adverse effects.

Check it out at the Guardian.

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