PFA fight against depression in sport

Feb 16, 14 PFA fight against depression in sport

Amy Lewis for Sky Sports News has learned that the PFA have worked with almost 150 footballers who are suffering from issues such as depression, addiction and anxiety since they launched their counselling network a year ago.

Historically, footballers have suffered in silence because of a perceived stigma attached to speaking out but Wales manager Gary Speed’s death in 2011 has increased awareness of the problems faced by many current and retired players.

Speed’s agent Hayden Evans said: “On a personal basis it has been a huge loss to everybody but there’s been some gain in terms of benefiting for his fellow professionals.”

Former Norwich defender Andy Brownrigg is one player who has sought help after struggling with gambling and drinking problems – although it took him 15 years.

“I was suicidal in the end, and at the worst point I wanted to take my own life, that was after my career had finished,” he said.

“I really didn’t feel that I had anywhere to go. Growing up in a working class culture in Sheffield – it’s not what lads do – to seek help for problems and from a young age I think I looked to escape from pressures and difficulties and this perspective was re-enforced in the profession of football which is a hyper masculine environment”.

 

Former Norwich defender Andy Brownrigg is one player who has sought help after struggling with gambling and drinking problems - Picture by www.pinkun.com

Former Norwich defender Andy Brownrigg is one player who has sought help after struggling with gambling and drinking problems – Picture by www.pinkun.com

 

However, times are changing and since February 2013 the PFA have recruited 26 counsellors who work with players nationwide.

Michael Bennett, the PFA’s Head of Player Welfare, said: “Football is a pressurised environment. Some players can deal with it and others can’t.

“You have injuries, some of the ones you see nowadays are career threatening, you have the transition from football which is a big issue for us that players can’t cope with leaving the game of football.”

According to charity Depression Alliance, 45% of UK adults have experienced depression and whilst the issue is not isolated to football – some factors within the sport can act as a trigger.

That is why the PFA have a mental health handbook written specifically for players and are starting a 24-hour hotline on March 1st.

 

Michael Bennett, the PFA's Head of Player Welfare, said: "Football is a pressurised environment. Some players can deal with it and others can't - Picture by www.thepfa.com

Michael Bennett, the PFA’s Head of Player Welfare, said: “Football is a pressurised environment. Some players can deal with it and others can’t – Picture by www.thepfa.com

 

Club chaplains are also now working with 69 the 92 teams in England and Wales. Most are volunteers, supported by the Football League, Premier League and the PFA. They work with all players regardless of their faith.

Matt Baker, Pastoral Support Director for Sports Chaplaincy UK, says: “It’s a very big part, working with the academy boys – it’s important because a number of those boys will only be here for a couple of years and then be released.

“That can throw up all kinds of issues and they need the support as they work through that and they’re starting out in this football industry and that can be quite a cultural shock and so for us to be there to offer that support is crucial.”

The chaplaincy service has helped Charlton right-back Jordan Cousins after his mother was diagnosed with cancer – she is now in remission – but he believes there should be even greater support.

“I’ve been through a situation myself because my Mum fell to cancer,” he said. “I was depressed so I went to Matt but obviously if there’s other people about in the future it will be even better.”

 

Article by Amy Lewis for Sky Sports News – For full links to report by Amy Lewis on Sky Sport News please (CLICK HERE)

 

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