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WHY DO SO MANY FOOTBALLERS SUFFER FROM MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES?

Mental health is something we all experience, either positive, negative or a balance but it’s when a person is stuck in a negative mental health state, that their mental health suffers and can lead to anxiety, depression or worse.

Life is never a straight line. Never is it easy or difficult, but we live in a life in constant flux and experience many emotions as we react to the environment around us.

WHEN YOU’RE STUCK IN A NEGATIVE MENTAL HEALTH STATE, THAT’S WHEN THE PROBLEMS START

I suffered from depression a few years ago. I was stuck in a cycle of self-destruction as I lost my job and struggled to find motivation to do something about it. I began to wake up late, stay up late and find anything to remove the boredom. I had no focus and hoped something would happen.

But guess what, nothing did happen.

I was losing fitness, I was losing my self-worth and I was spending money I didn’t have.

The doctor offered me anti-depressants but I had heard how they numb the brain so immediately, I turned down that option. I valued my clarity and thinking.

I understand what it’s like to feel depressed, but I also know how to find a solution that changes the mindset.

Any player can change their mindset and can experience the highs and the lows, from winning the league, to losing on the last day of the season and getting relegated.

One player I spoke to has a family member in the premier league and after a transfer, he sat in his bedroom all day with the curtains closed and only left his room to train and play.

A player will begin to suffer from negative mental health when they can’t find the answer or solution to a problem that’s occurred.

THE SOLUTION EXISTS, YOU JUST NEED TO KNOW WHICH DIRECTION TO LOOK IN

The mind is a tricky little thing and can trick players into focusing on a wave of negative emotions and thoughts like blame, embarrassment, guilt, fear, anger, and anger.

The other issue they face is two-fold. Can I talk to someone and are they willing to listen?

There are some great campaigns out encouraging players to talk and I applaud these campaigns.

However, encouraging someone to talk, will go nowhere if there isn’t anyone they trust enough to open up to; and then there is the concern of will they actually listen without judgement or will they tell the boss, take the p!ss or tell you to ‘man-up’?

When concerns are held in the mind, they begin to manifest and morph into thoughts and feelings that can drag even the most skilled player to a place of darkness.

Check these worrying stats!

  • 60% of footballers go bankrupt within five years of leaving the game
  •  In 2016, 165 members of the PFA were referred for counselling
  • in 2017, more than three times the amount of players reaching out were recorded by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) than in 2015 and 2016. The number of former players requiring support has also doubled.

So what’s the solution?

Talking and advising players what to do and how to cope with the world of professional football is great on one level.

But there is another level that needs addressing

When a person understands their self-worth and mental health, doesn’t have to revolve around football, a new perspective is discovered that can strengthen the individuals’ resilience and ability to move quickly from negative mental health, to finding a balanced or positive state of mind.

A balanced or positive state of mind, allows the individual to thrive in an otherwise hostile and very critical environment.

Football players can perceive opening up as a weakness, something that only others do, yet opening is can be perceived as a courageous and intelligent act.

I urge players to find someone who is willing to listen without judgement or criticism and open up. I guarantee when this happens, the problems they thought they had, won’t be as problematic as they think.

By Mike Nichols

Insights and Masterful mental performance coaching for the football (soccer) and basketball player

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