Depression in Football; The Stigma

Mental illness in the U.K has a stigma attached to it as it is. People generally don't know how to handle it  even though 1 in 4 of us will suffer from some sort of mental illness at some point of our lives.

So imagine the stigma of something such as depression in football; football players, managers, coaches are normally "better off" so don't normally have to worry about things the general public will have to, e.g., money problems (unless you form a gambling addiction, which has happened before). Those of us who suffer or who have suffered from depression will know that means fuck all as  you just feel bad. You feel bad even though there's no reason for it.

Then there's all the other bits that come with it; the lethargy, the sadness, the tiredness, the lack of motivation and the days of feeling like you can't cope even though there's nothing to worry about. 
Finding no joys in the things that normally make you happy is probably one of the most scariest things to happen if you're a football player (with no other problems which could be aiding into the depression). There are ones that learn to live, ones that learn to get better and get help, then there are the people where the only solution is to end their life; where the point of caring about your family and friends just isn't enough. When the latter happens, it's a scary thought, I've been there at times, many of my friends have been there too, it's the scariest thought when theres nothing stopping you from doing it.
 The two main tragic stories of depression in football are the stories of Robert Enke and Gary Speed:

Robert Enke committed suicide in November 2009, his widow had stated that he had suffered from depression for six years after a bad spell at Barcelona and was seeing a psychiatrist but since the death of his two year old daugter, Lara, in 2006, he had struggled to cope with the loss. I highly recommend reading this telegraph article surronding his death and depression;

A famous German sports journalist and author Ronald Reng  memorialized Enke's life in a book called "A Life too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke" and the Telegraph article gives some back story into the book.

The other tragic story is more recent; Gary Speed, who killed himself, his depression was a little bit less known about, with his wife still trying to understand why he exactly did it. Especially how he appeared on Football Focus not even 24 hour before his death. However he was described by his mother as a "glass half empty" person and argued with his wife the night before his death; 4 days prior to this, he texted his wife how he was contemplating suicide, but dismissed the idea as she and his children were too important to him.

So how what can help break the stigma of mental health within football? 

Ever since these two major events in football more and more players have been coming out and saying that they have been depressed because they were either overworking themselves (Yohan Cabaye, for Newcastle), or because they were second fiddle to someone for several years and got less playing time (Steve Harper, for Newcastle). There have also been more mental health foundations (Robert Enke Foundation, PFA's mental health and welfare awareness group) for players to turn to.

The admittance of Jonny Wilkinson's depression and Rafael Nadal's depression helped Cabaye get through his depression by realising he wasn't the only one and that he needed to talk about it.

But with this, and especially with depression, the person who's suffering may not even realise they have a problem, they might be feeling down and might think they themselves are being stupid, when it's a real problem that needs to be helped. We need to improve the whole focus and mentality when it come to well being so you can either spot when you're feeling down for prolonged phases of time, or so a friend or family member can pick up on it instead.

Sport should join together to beat the stigma of mental health issues; it may just have a knock on effect breaking the stigma in the general UK public of these issues as well.

And a personal note from me; If you ever feel depressed, or trouble getting out of bed or realising that you just don't feel the same as you once did, you are not alone, talk to your GP, talk to a friend or family member, there might not be anything wrong or troubling in your life, but with some help, sometimes someone to talk to, or even medication in the right cases, you'll feel like the person you were. 

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