National Alliance on Mental Illness
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March 2007

Prescription: Soccer

The beginning of spring last week signaled for many a return to outdoor activities. But for some people with serious mental illnesses, outdoor activity—specifically, soccer—is not just a way to have fun. It has become a part of their treatment plan. recently reported on a psychiatrist in Italy who has been using soccer as therapy for the past 14 years for hundreds of people with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar and multiple-personality disorder. Their participation in the team sport has not only aided in their recovery, says the doctor, but has helped combat stigma.

In the article, Dr. Santo Rullo states, "Soccer therapy is very much an integrated treatment along with clinical treatment like counseling and pharmaceutical treatments. In our patients who have gone through the soccer program, we have seen very few cases of relapse back to institutions or back under heavy medication."

He says he thinks part of the reason soccer is effective for his patients is because it is so much a part of Italy's national culture. For that reason, he thinks basketball or baseball would be better choices in America.

Dr. Rullo and his soccer team are featured in a new Italian documentary called "Matti per il Calcio," ("Crazy for Soccer"). The word "crazy" was intentionally used, says Rullo, " to authorize the political incorrectness of it for this film to help combat the stigma."

Learn more about soccer therapy in the full interview with Dr. Rullo from There, you may also post your comments about the article.

Related resources from NAMI:

  • Hearts and Minds
    a multimedia program about healthy, accessible, and affordable lifestyle changes designed to reduce cardiac risk among people with mental illness
  • In Our Own Voice
    a one-and-a-half hour interactive, multimedia presentation by consumers that offers hope and provides insight into the recovery now possible for people with mental illness