World Mental Health Day - Dean McComb, Active Communities Network

On World Mental Health Day, Laureus is shining a light on the transformational work our Sport for Good programmes are doing to support young people with mental health challenges.
Mental health and wellbeing is one of Laureus Sport for Good’s six key focus areas, aligned with the outcomes aligned to the indicators underpinning the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Laureus Sport for Good uses the unique power of sport to engage with children and young people who are facing Mental Health challenges.
At the 2018 Laureus World Sports Awards, Active Communities Network (ACN) received the Laureus Sport for Good Award for using sport to support marginalised and vulnerable young people. ACN helps young people strengthen and reinforce positive lifestyle choices, offering a pathway to learning new skills and progressing into education, training and employment programmes.
Dean McComb, Active Communities Network
Dean McComb, a participant with the Active Communities Network programme in Belfast, has been transformed his life for the better through the sport of boxing.
“When I’m in the ring, I feel alive,” says Dean. 
Growing up in one of the most disadvantaged communities in West Belfast, Dean and his group of friends were among the most disengaged in the city as young men. They were expelled, barred and forgotten.
They were threatened and shot at but with the support and guidance offered by Active Communities Network, Dean and his friends were able to make positive choices that kept them out of serious trouble.
Dean along with his brother, Gavin, fell in love with the sport of boxing at an early age. It offered him structure, discipline, and was a skill he picked up quickly.
Dean’s life took a tragic turn when he was hit by the crushing news of the sudden death of his brother, best friend and fellow boxer Gavin. “We grew up loving boxing together, always competed against each other, and then Gavin took his own life,” Dean remembers. “Going back to the boxing club wasn’t the same, because of the bond we had with each other in the gym.” 
After four or five tough years away from the sport, Dean built up the courage to get back in touch with Active Communities Network once more, this time with an aim of giving something back.
Dean is now a volunteer boxing coach with the organisation in Belfast, and he has shown incredible courage, resilience and fight to return to the sport himself. A man who has been dealt more blows than most is back in training, ready to focus on a positive future both in and out of the ring. Dean’s inspirational story is proof that sport can change the world.
“I got back into the sport by helping out with the youngsters,” says Dean. “It relit a fire and I started boxing again, I missed the adrenaline. Boxing makes me feel positive and motivated.”

Sean Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, has experienced first-hand the positive impact Active Communities Network is having on young people in Northern Ireland. He has also watched Dean grow from a programme participant to a volunteer coach.
“Dean is an absolute inspiration to us all. Mental health is an issue which impacts everyone in society, none more so than the young people involved in the programmes Laureus supports around the world. That impact is exacerbated due to the challenges, isolation and uncertainty brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Programmes like Active Communities Network and role models like Dean are crucial in today’s society, as they use sport to help young people build confidence and resilience in the face of difficulties in life.” 
Active Communities Network is one of more than 200 programmes Laureus supports around the world, each one working to improve the lives of young people through sport. Dean’s inspirational story of resilience and overcoming adversity if proof that sport can have the power to transform young lives for the better.

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