*Warning, this article contains discussions around mental health and suicide. The author of this article is not a medical professional and would therefore encourage any readers who have been affected by this content to get in touch with the mental health and suicide prevention charity CALM. Their contact details are at the bottom of the article*
From an outsider’s perspective, many people are naïve to the idea that those who have wealth, and are living out our dreams, can suffer in terms of mental health.
Steven Gerrard was one of the greatest and most complete midfielders of his generation. At the peak of his powers, he was arguably the best midfielder in the world – competing even with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Last week, the Liverpool legend – who is quickly becoming an icon at Glasgow Rangers, urged men to open up about mental health, and admitted that his own is a ‘work in progress’.
Gerrard was in a video conference with a group of Rangers fans, who had reached out to the club for help with their own mental health. When asked about how to balance life’s highs and lows, the former England midfielder stated, “I think it’s something I’m still working on, from a personal point of view, it’s part of management and I think it’s part of everyday life, you have to accept that some days are gonna be better than others.”
When talking about the journey of working in football, he commented “The journey does take you to some really high places in terms of winning stuff, but it also takes you to some cruel lows as well and on the back of them cruel lows you can have some real days where you don’t feel great and you’re a little bit down and you need people around you to really help pick yourself up.
“I think the key to it all is never keeping it in and never thinking that’s the right thing to keep it in and always try if you can to have people around you that you can talk to and set-backs with and share problems with, I think that always helps get you back in a better place, that’s what I’ve learned from experience.”
The mental health of football players and managers is something that has not been taken seriously enough in recent years, with many being more open on the struggles of transitioning out of football. But with awareness around mental health, particularly for men in a wider context, increasing, we are on a steady path to a world where men feel it is okay to be vulnerable and to talk about their feelings.
Players and managers have been increasingly vocal on mental health struggles in the past year, with stars such as Jesse Lingard amongst others demonstrating how seeking help and talking to people is the most important first step on the road to a better life, not just for elite sportsmen, but for everyone.
It is incredibly important, in a world where we can easily be consumed by social media, and where it is so easy to send criticism to players and managers, that such criticism does not cross the fine line into abuse. Clearly this can have a significant negative effect onsome players – a clear example being Bernd Leno’s comments, where he was told to ‘Do it like Enke’ referring to Robert Enke, the German goalkeeper who sadly took his own life aged just 32.
As we conclude mental health awareness week, it is important to remember that anyone can be affected by poor mental health, and more important to consider what actions we are taking to contribute to the health of others in a positive way, rather than negative.
You can contact the CALM helpline between 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year or if you are in need of text-based support, you can use their webchat facility.
CALM helpline numbers:
Nationwide – 0800 58 58 58 | London – 0808 802 58 58
Webchat available at thecalmzone.net