Robert Enke, Paul Gascoigne, Adriano, Gary Speed, Sebastian Deisler, Gianluigi Buffon, Andres Iniesta, Michael Carrick, Danny Rose, Ben Chilwell, Francesco Acerbi, Paul Merson, Josip Ilicic, Rio Ferdinand. Just some of the prominent (male) footballers in recent history who have struggled with mental health issues. But does football care about “its big problem that nobody is talking about”? We may perhaps remember the individual tragedies and maybe even relate to them on a human level, but is football doing enough to address mental health? What can football clubs and players do to destigmatize mental health for players and staff ? What steps can be taken to help and by whom? How does the culture need to change?
Or have the last ten years since the tragic death of Robert Enke and the increasing awareness in other sports led to an improvement on this front? Does football “just need time to catch up with society” or does it have a crisis on its hand?
To find some answers to these questions, we reached out to Tom Hamilton, senior writer at ESPN. Tom covers European football and rugby for ESPN, and has just this season done remarkable interviews and features on Julian Nagelsmann, Joshua Kimmich, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mario Götze. In addition to his excellent features and tireless reporting, Tom is passionate about mental health awareness. Indeed, just recently Tom sat down with Joe Bryan - the Fulham defender whose famous goal against Brentford earned his team promotion to the Premier League - to talk about mental health in football.
We begin our conversation with some of the takeaways from that story, before delving into what the umbrella term “mental health” covers and whether there is more awareness towards the subject now versus before. Tom shares with us his experiences talking to people in football about mental health and some discoveries he has made.
We also discuss the effects of the pandemic on player well-being and the cynicism of the proposed Super League on the subject. As we wonder if coaches are neglected from a mental well-being perspective, we speculate on how the culture of being a workaholic has changed to acknowledging burnout on the management side.
In addition, we talk about the dark side of social media and whether there should be more accountability. We hope you check out this insightful conversation on an important subject in light of the UK and the US holding mental health awareness week and month in May.
Check out ESPN’s recent coverage of mental health in sports: https://www.espn.com/espnw/story/_/id/31459633/mental-health-awareness-month-working-end-stigma-one-story?
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