After a series of high profile incidents involving depression in football, fans should be wondering what is being done to help and prevent mental health issues in the sport. Only last week, yet another seasoned pro (Chris Kirkland) came out to the public and revealed he had been battling depression for his whole career. During his interview with The Guardian newspaper he did however admit he had never come close to taking his own life – A topic brought up when discussing the tragic death of former Welsh international Gary Speed. Although Kirkland did reveal “He didn’t know how far away [he] was from that”. From an outsiders perspective this may seem ludicrous, as to why a man earning thousands of pounds and living the dream of millions of young children would even consider it. But this is the problem. It can certainly be argued that not enough is being done in the world of football to stand up to what is still a taboo subject throughout the game.
Sadly in other cases around the footballing globe, depression has taken players that one fatal step further and ultimately ended the lives of some ordinary males, just like any other man which had so happened to be professional footballers. One heart breaking example of this would be ex Falkirk, Queen of the South and Clyde defender and midfielder Chris Mitchell. The Scotsman who had represented his country at under 21 level numerous times, took his own life in May 2016. However now the Chris Mitchell Foundation has been set up by his family and girlfriend Louise Rooney. With the aim of highlighting the need for mental health and wellbeing awareness within Scottish professional football.
Much like the Chris Mitchell foundation, the Gary Speed Trust was also created after Speed’s death in 2011. The aim of the trust is to pay respect and work in memory of the former Newcastle and Leeds player. The money raised goes to supporting grassroots sports and mental health charities across the cities that Gary had previously played in.
Another high profile ex professional that has now also spoken about his trouble with the problem, Clarke Carlisle. Only this morning, Carlisle has been speaking of the day in early September in which a passing stranger talked him out of ending his life, after going missing during the day. Suicide, is something that Carlisle had admitted to trying before the most recent incident. In fact only 4 months prior to when Carlisle went missing, Everton winger Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act by police over concerns for his welfare. Although this did gain fantastic support from football fans around the country, it still raises the question as to what is being done to help?
Only in this one piece, five examples of the illness have been mentioned but nevertheless hundreds; arguably thousands of players will still be suffering from the problems in which have been discussed during this article. Even without numerous references demonstrating the problem it has become crystal clear that common checks, discussions and conversations need to be taking place at clubs up and down the country, to reduce and support the matter of depression in football. No one, not even football players should ever feel like they cannot talk and discuss their problems. People must realise that athletes are humans and just because they may have bumper contracts and big houses, the illness can also affect them.
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