Mental Health Awareness Needed in Football

One of the hottest topics in the UK has become mental health and the continued stigma that seems to plague people that speak out and seek help, especially it seems, men. Sadly this has lead to a spate of high-profile cases where celebrities have taken their own lives.

While there haven’t been any such tragedies within the FA, has details of a new report from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) which shows that more players are seeking help, but they are concerned many more are staying silent.

HRH The Duke of Cambridge has been very outspoken on the subject, and recently he joined the president of the FA to issue a warning to all clubs that they need to do more to combat mental health issues for players at all levels of the game. The report shows that the numbers of players seeking help in 2018 were 438 which is a definite increase from just 160 in 2016, but there are concerns that the arena is still not considered open and safe.

Mental health issues come in many forms and are often labelled invisible as people tend to hide their suffering, but the world of football has a unique set of potential stressors that can cause problems for players. These include things like relocating to a new country, making transitions in and to of football, going on loan, getting injured, suffering addiction or money worries and many more. It can be a lonely world if you are far from home or not immediately made welcome by teammates. Prince William wants to ensure that all clubs communicate to players how to seek help and receive assurances that it will be treated with respect and positivity.

A few high profile football stars have publicly spoken up about their own battles, and this is hopefully breaking down any stigma that still remains. By standing up and sharing their stories, they hope other players will feel confident in seeking help when needed. One current player is Tottenham and England full-back Danny Rose, and he is supported by two retired players Stan Collymore and former England winger Aaron Lennon. It is vital that the safe space is created so that no one is embarrassed about coming forward. It can still be done anonymously or with very little need for more than a couple of people to know so players should not be afraid to seek help. Michael Bennet who was appointed Head of Welfare at the PFA in 2011 is a former England Youth International so really understands the industry and the pressures faced by players. He has spoken about the report and the campaign moving forward saying “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.”