QPR football programme helps young Neasden striker tackle his depression
PUBLISHED: 11:15 06 July 2017
A young Neasden man propelled into a dark depression following the death of his father is now living out his dream as a striker for a Queen's Park Rangers Football Club programme.
James Casling spent three months at the Park Royal Mental Health Centre, in Central Way, four years ago after the death of his father.
The 21-year-old, who was a teenager at the time, was having suicidal thoughts and had made several attempts to take his own life by self-harming.
While at the centre he was introduced to the Healthy Kickers’ football therapy programme, run jointly by the mental health centre and the QPR in the Community Trust.
He was encouraged by staff to play football once a week at a local sports centre.
Mr Casling said: “CNWL trust staff were just talking to me with dignity and respect and the interaction they gave me - they weren’t treating me like I was a little kid; they were treating me like an 18-year-old.
“They would take me to anything sport related just to get me out the hospital.
“We would play badminton, tennis and football.
“The staff didn’t look at me as a patient; they looked at me as a young man.”
Since participating in the programme, the QPR Healthy Kickers’ striker, who grew up in Cricklewood, has become the top goal scorer for three seasons in a row, keeping up a total of 76 goals.
Although a Liverpool fan, he said QPR is where his heart belongs.
He added: “Here is where I am, this is where I feel at home. It’s not just a football club, for me it’s more than that.
“It’s about being a part of it and about the people who make the club.”
He still receives therapy in a different centre in the borough and dreams of becoming a coach.
On June 21 James headed to Portsmouth to present the Hampshire Social Inclusion Cup 2017, which celebrates equality in the community.
The tournament was run by Victory Hants, a charity which works to support those who have suffered social isolation such as mental health issues.
He said: “I was lucky enough to be in a hospital where I was helped, but I know that there are hospitals that don’t have this sort of initiative in their programme.
“If I didn’t have it, I don’t know where I would be.”