Mental health – Football’s darkest secret

Blog by: Daniel

Gary Speed - a victim of football's darkest secret?

Gary Speed – a victim of football’s darkest secret?

Football is portrayed as an inclusive game, a game for everyone no matter who they are. Is this correct? No. Many footballers will have mental health problems during their career, yet very few will actually admit to it .due to the stigma and ignorance of the people involved in the sport.

Andy Goram was a former Scottish goalkeeper who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was brave enough to make his illness known to the public. However, instead of being known as a courageous individual he was instead abused by opposing and indeed his own fans. Whilst playing against Celtic, the fans chanted “Two Andy Gorams, there’s only two Andy Gorams”. What appals me even more about this story is the fact that The Guardian has listed this in the top  funniest football chants on their website. How can this be acceptable?

The BBC recently aired the documentary “Football’s Suicide Secrets” which covered the tabulate of mental illness in football. Statistics show that 25% of people suffer from mental health problems, which means that a quarter of footballers will experience some form of mental health problem this year. It may be your favourite player. Your club’s captain. Your country’s top scorer. It can happen to anyone, yet no footballer will admit they have a problem.

The documentary showed how many footballers can experience mental health problems and come close to taking their lives. The most recent example of this is Gary Speed. In 2011 he committed suicide and his reasons behind this are still unknown to this day. But if he felt he could come out and admit his problem without being abused would he still be here today? Of course, he would. But through no fault of his own, he kept it a secret and now the world is still mourning over the death of the Welsh wizard.

So I encourage everyone in the game to come out about their problems and I also encourage people in the game to be more understanding of those that are going through mental health problems. The charity Time To Change are working hard to end the stigma surrounding mental health and they run courses and workshops that help people understand mental health.

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