Last week, the news broke that Premier League footballer Aaron Lennon had been detained under the Mental Heath Act. Most prominent figures within the media were sympathetic towards Lennon and wished him well.
However, there was a mixed reaction in some quarters. Some seem to think that if you’re in a privileged position, such as a professional footballer, you should be immune to mental health issues. They point to the fact that footballers live the lives many people wish they had.
They point to the fact that instead of going into an office, or onto a building site, or behind the wheel of a tractor, an elite group of footballers get chauffeured into a training ground, kick a ball around and are paid a huge amount of money. What’s more, when the weekend arrives, they perform in front of thousands of adoring fans.
Well, as Mental Heath Awareness Week draws to a close, I hope that more people appreciate that mental health illnesses such as depression can affect anyone, regardless of personal wealth or privileged status.
Former Liverpool footballer Jamie Carragher recently addressed this subject in his column for the Daily Mail. He explained the strains associated with being a professional footballer and the anxieties that consequently affected him during his playing days.
Stan Collymore, another former footballer who has suffered with mental health problems appeared on Good Morning Britain this week and berated Piers Morgan for allegedly suggesting that some sufferers should adopt a stiff upper lip, a stance that Collymore strongly refuted.
I believe here lies the key message. When life starts feeling like an insurmountable challenge, do not remain quiet.
Carragher did not remain quiet. He visited sports psychologist Bill Beswick, and there was a poignant insight from Beswick that Carragher remembers to this day. He said: "The normal man on the street thinks, because you are famous, you are an extraordinary person. You're not. You're an ordinary person with an extraordinary talent."This is the point. We all the same, we all need help sometimes, the important thing to remember is to not feel afraid to seek it.
That brings me back to something Bill told me. He said: "The normal man on the street thinks, because you are famous, you are an extraordinary person. You're not. You're an ordinary person with an extraordinary talent."