Mental Health awareness is growing in the football world, where discussions now regularly take place publicly as opposed to behind closed doors or, worse still, not at all.
The beautiful game has some ugly traits. Old stereotypes and outdated perceptions of masculinity linger, making the prospect of broaching certain topics difficult.
Whether it be the mocking of Luke Chadwick’s appearance after he broke onto the scene at Manchester United or the internal turmoil a professional can face after suffering a long-term injury – football can undoubtedly have a negative affect on an individual’s mental health.
But the winds of change are gathering momentum and – at a time when life has become more difficult for everyone – plenty of footballers have been at the forefront of ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’.
Squawka is shining a light on just a fraction of some of the work players have undertaken to promote messages of wellbeing.
The Arsenal defender has embraced an opportunity to use his profile to address important issues outside of football, with a refreshing sense of honesty.
"Back in the day there was a stigma for men to talk about it or there was a stigma as a group of people, as footballers, to talk about these things. It's important that we take these chains off and start talking about it, moving forward with an open mind."#WorldMentalHealthDay pic.twitter.com/2cuoh4wd95
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 10, 2018
The former England-21 international and Team GB squad member hung up his boots in 2019 at just 28 years of age and is now an advocate of people, especially sportsmen, talking about their mental health.
"For such a long time footballers were thought of as objects and not human beings."@MarvinSordell talks to @muhammadbutt about the importance of talking about issues surrounding mental health in football. pic.twitter.com/ue3VcQg8lO
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 13, 2019
The defender is heading up Bournemouth‘s campaign with Dorset HealthCare, which was created to offer physical and mental health support to their social media followers.
Mepham took an elongated route to the football elite, having recently revealed that he found himself in “a dark place” as he came to terms with a family illness after being released by Chelsea as a teenager. He almost turned his back on football completely in favour of a career in gardening.
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— AFC Bournemouth 🍒 (@afcbournemouth) May 11, 2020
The Watford skipper is something of a Marmite figure on the pitch, with his bullish playing style often derided as prehistoric in the pristine landscape of the Premier League.
Off the pitch, Deeney has become a prominent voice on mental health issues and in 2018 opened up on the benefits of seeing a psychologist.
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“If we can use the power of football and bring people together to have a really big conversation about mental health then that can only help people who are still struggling.” 📽 Behind the scenes at the #HeadsUp Weekends launch. Let’s start the biggest ever conversation on mental health. Let’s #KickOffAConversation. Visit the link in bio for more info.
The goalkeeper has proven to be a late bloomer, with his Premier League debut coming for West Ham earlier this season at the ripe old age of 33.
Martin has spent the majority of his career in the lower leagues and, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, has described how learning to open up to those closest to him has helped him deal with anxiety: “Just talking, if you can be brave enough to do it that first time, it will hold you in good stead for the rest of your life.”