More players seeking help for mental health issues

Over the last few years, mental health has become a focus in the UK and other countries. The feeling that a stigma still exists is being cited as the reason why some high-profile celebrities took their own lives and it seems to be an area that still needs work as men, in particular, seem too ashamed to seek help. reports on new findings from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) which shows an increase in players asking for mental health help, and this is positive and good news.

Recently the FA and HRH Prince William challenged football clubs to change their approach to looking after the mental health of their players. The Duke of Cambridge is a well known as a champion of mental health awareness and the weight of the president of the FA should help clubs take the issue seriously. The PFA has released a report which showed in 2016 just 160 players sought therapy whereas in 2018 the figure had increased to 438.

As in any industry the pressures felt by players may not be immediately visible to the outside world, but there are a lot of things that can cause mental health issues including injuries, being sent on loan, being a foreign player in a new country, transitioning in and out of the game, addictions and money worries; the list is long. It is a unique and potentially lonely world, and we need to be making players more aware of the signs on mental health problems and how to access help if needed.

In 2011 former England youth international Michael Bennett was appointed Head of Welfare at the PFA, a person requiring first-hand knowledge of the player’s role. As Bennett explains; “Once you would never show any weakness, but they now realise it’s not weak to talk about things, but the issues have always been there. But they have perhaps been a little bit under the radar, and too many people have suffered in silence in the past. Now, I hope, people realise you can ask for help and help is available.”

Thankfully the initiative is being supported by some other high-profile footballers who have bravely chosen to speak up about their own issues and how they were affected by a mental health issue. They hope to encourage younger players to be brave and ask for help if they feel they need it.

Tottenham and England full-back Danny Rose who is still very much active in his roles is one of the stars that are prepared to speak publicly, and he is joined by retired striker Stan Collymore and former England winger Aaron Lennon. We need to develop a safe arena where there is no stigma or need to be embarrassed when coming forward for help. The more open we can make the issue the better.

Sadly in the music world, Prodigy frontman Keith Flint took his own life at the beginning of March so the campaign is timely and the media is already reporting the issue.

More players seeking help for mental health issues

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