Football has been often described as “more then a game” with more and more players of the sport going on to experience mental health issues not just during their playing days but also in retirement as many retired players can find it difficult to adapt into a normal life after a long career of the same routine.
Research shows that up to 38 percent of footballers suffer from mental health symptoms during their career.
Many examples of players who have battled mental health issues…
- During the 2000-01 season Everton Player Paul Gascoigne struggled with depression after losing his place in the first team following a series of injuries in April 2003 Gascoigne had treatment against Alcoholism and Depression.
- In June 2018 England player Danny Rose stated that he had been diagnosed with depression
- In May 2022 Dominic Calvert-Lewin spoke about his mental health problems.
In 2020 a young academy player took his own life after two years of struggling with depression after being released by Manchester Citys academy since then Manchester City have done more work to ensure youth players have more support throughout their time at the club.
A report by the PFA in 2020 out of some 262 members 69% were worried about their career and a further 9% were experiencing damaging addictive habits.
- Footballers are in a very vulnerable from the day they become pro due to the worldwide exposure from the media, fans and even teammates.
- Many players sometimes have to endure the clubs they are contracted to going into “Administration” or even if and when the owning company of a team goes into liquidation that would then cause players and staff to not be paid and be out of jobs.
- Players can also become what is widely known as a Free Agent which makes the player unemployed due to their contract not being renewed by the club they last played under or at the players request.
- Retirement has been known as a massive cause of mental health issues amongst players due to the lack of no next step plan for example if a player after retiring was to go into coaching or punditry but many players have been known to enjoy the laid back normal lifestyle that non football players do.
Fans in football over time has had a massive change in how the game is followed with majority of premier league teams being able to sell out their stadiums on match days every week but then the issue that players and coaches even referees have to face is the abuse they go on to have from fans managers and players in some cases referees have even needed a police protection just to leave the stadium. Many players during games and non game days have been victim racist abuse not only on them but also family and friends too. The aftermath of racial abuse has had a massive effect on not only players but also the person committing the offence with clubs and police forces taking action to stop the abuse by not only handing out lifetime bans from stadiums and matches but as well as legal action including custodial sentences.
While players endure long careers in the sport and do gain rather large attention from the public those players who are and have been lucky enough to have rather generous wages have also had to ensure the safety and security of not only themselves but loved ones too with some players being victims of robbery and break ins at their homes with some cases the police have not been able to catch the suspects.
Many Charities have been set up over the years to help all people in football and have made a massive contribution towards helping those in need of help in the sport. The NHS in England have also made massive steps over the years to ensure people involved in the sport know and have the right help and support on hand when needed.
With many top flight clubs around the world now bringing their own Mental Health experts to ensure players and staff have the help when needed while employed at the club.
The battle with Mental Health carries on but the knowledge and support gets better and better each day as more people decide to speak out and fight to be better.