Last week the soccer world took a lot of steps in the right direction regarding mental health. Since mental health problems affect one in four people1, many soccer players likely suffer from various mental health problems behind closed doors. The fact that soccer stars are put under the spotlight so often intensifies the pressure on them, and therefore the heightens risk of mental health problems.
Earlier this week Angel Di Maria, midfielder for French club PSG, made a statement in an article that, “Memes hurt us a lot, going to the psychologist has helped me2.” Although this seems like a pretty insignificant comment, it actually takes a lot of courage to come out and speak publicly about seeing a psychologist. There is still a stigma around seeking help for mental problems, and some still view it as being weak and vulnerable. Another factor to consider is how your club will view your confessions. A soccer club seeks the strongest and most capable players, and by admitting to mental health problems you might appear to be the opposite.
A few days later Billy Kee, striker for English club Accrington Stanley, became one of the first professional soccer players to come out and share his entire struggle with anxiety and depression. He explained how his mental illnesses affected him, and how his club and manager reacted. Below is a link to Billy Kee’s video for you to watch.
The most important points made in this video are about how the club reacted, and how you can help those who struggle with mental illnesses. Accrington Stanley set a very important precedent for soccer clubs by recognizing that Billy Kee cannot control his problem, and instead of releasing him in search of more capable players at the time, they gave him time off to recover before bringing him back to the team. The manager was very fair and understanding, and hopefully other soccer clubs will learn from this. What you can do as a spectator is educate yourself and others about these mental illnesses. Understanding what someone is going through is important for knowing how to sympathize with them.
The week ended with an Instagram post from Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy with the caption, “Never be embarrassed to talk about how you feel… #GetTheInsideOut #mentalhealth.” I’m sure Jamie Vardy knows many people who suffer from mental illnesses, and by posting this he is doing his part to support them and ease their pain. It is very important that players are there for their teammates during their struggles with mental health.
Many soccer clubs could use some improvement regarding how they handle the mental health of their players. Clearly mental health affects play just like physical health, so there should be psychologists and support systems available for each player. Sports psychology is an enormous field, and the field will continue to grow quickly in the future as we learn more about mental health.
- “World Health Report” WHO, World Health Organization, 4 Oct. 2001, who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/.
- Sherman, Justin. “Di María: “Los memes nos duelen muchísimo, a mí me ayudó el psicólogo”.” com, 8 Feb. 2018, www.marca.com/futbol/liga-francesa/2018/02/08/5a7c9b12468aeb4c608b462c.html.