Football’s great depression

It is not a rare thing in life to wake up some days and feel down in the dumps, it could be over anything; relationship problems, money issues, bereavement, maybe it’s that you don’t like work or school – just normal problems that happen in daily life and that will affect a person regardless of who they are or what they do. Imagine when you add other factors in to the mix like being a person in the public eye, having to deal with criticism or even abuse on a weekly basis, the pressure of having to perform to your physical limits, having the worry that your working life could potential only last 20 years and could end at any time –these are other issues that professional footballers have to deal with as well as all the normal everyday issues due to the nature of their work.

Awareness has been raised to an unprecedented level recently in regards to sports persons who suffer from clinical depression. People’s natural reaction is to think that a professional sports person has a dream job and lifestyle, therefore how can they have everyday issues like you and I? But they do…and then some. Over the weekend another player has come out and spoken of his battle against depression as he struggles to adapt to life after football. 42-year-old former football journeyman Dean Windass spoke about how in the last two weeks he has unsuccessfully attempted suicide twice, a statement that shocked the friends and family of this larger than life character. Windass said:

“People outside football think we have it all. But I was in a hole that I honestly didn’t know how to get out of. Just over a week ago I hit rock-bottom and decided to end it all. I first took an overdose and when that didn’t work tried to hang myself. I felt so alone and believed I had nothing to live for. I need to sort myself out which is why I’m speaking out now.”

A shocking statement to say the least, a statement so brutally honest, so current, that it hits home the dangers of depression.

You would say that Windass was a legend to many fans at many clubs, he has always had a hard-working attitude that seemed true to his roots; a player that fans could relate to. He played with his heart on his sleeve and was the opposite of the proverbial ‘big time Charlie’. You would be excused for thinking that such a character would have an easy transition back in to ‘the real world’, but this is clearly not the case; depression has no one common denominator and affects everyone for different reasons.

For Windass the depression came as he struggled to adapt to life without football, having no career path, the boredom, the isolation, the sadness, the lack of challenge/the bigger challenge that life becomes. To the outside world Windass was a larger than life character that many would have thought would continue in the game, maybe as a coach or a manager. Things haven’t quite worked out for him and he was overridden by feelings of failure in his professional and personal life, his father died suddenly after the two fell out and his marriage broke down as a by-product of his out of control drinking, which Windass states is something that contributes to his personal crisis-point when he tried to take his own life.

People look at the case of Gary Speed and cannot find reason for his suicide, the most likely explanation is depression; a man who was described as a similar personality to Windass, Speed was another bubbly character who had everything to live for, great job, happy marriage, lovely kids, nice home, no money issues and a lot to look forward to…but this was not how he saw his life when depression kicked in.

Stan Collymore is another ex-professional footballer who has done a lot to raise awareness about depression, a condition that he openly suffers from and talks about via his Twitter account. Collymore’s career and personal life has had its ups and downs which he is never allowed to forget. More worryingly since coming out about his depression he has been the victim of abuse about his condition, whilst receiving further abuse about his race. He rightly or wrongly accentuates his exposure to the public by use of such sites as Twitter, but the last thing someone should be doing is abusing someone under any circumstance. We all know there is a fine line between banter and abuse, but that line has been well and truly crossed at times and people need to remember that the consequences of such actions can be serious.

Football has a battle on its hands when it comes to the issue of depression. People who play sport on an amateur basis or even just for fun, still feel the pressure that society puts on us to win, imagine what such pressures are like when this is your living. In the ‘real world’ we all learn about life through education, interacting with different people, working different jobs and enjoying new experiences – in the majority of cases professional footballers start their career as children and grow up with a child’s mentality as they exist in the ‘football bubble’ where players can be sheltered from ‘real life’ and its problems, which can cause long term issues. Careers are short and the majority of football players have few academic qualifications when they retire, the real world can be a daunting and scary place.

The protection of the ‘football bubble’ is a nice thing to have, but people become reliant on it, which means an even bigger fall from grace when it bursts. Football has a problem with its make up as an industry; it is macho and manly, where any weakness will be exploited to advantage others. The stereotype that men don’t like to talk about their problems is long-standing for a reason, it’s stupidly true.  Athletes don’t want to show weakness, living in the fear that weakness can mean you are left on the sidelines or out of a job such are the expectations of the modern game. In truth, it is the wrong way of looking at the situation, being alive and healthy in body and mind must come first, opinions need to start to change from these wakeup calls.

The next time someone admits to suffering from such an illness have some respect and think fair play they had the balls to say something in the first place. For those of you that choose to abuse, whether that’s on the terraces, in the streets or when hiding behind Twitter, think about the consequences of your actions, professional athletes are no different to anyone else. If you have a problem, don’t suffer in silence, get help so your illness can be treated and your life can be again in your control.

This entry was posted in Ex-players, Feature Articles, Health, News, Player Performance, World Football. Bookmark the permalink.
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  1. Pingback: Continue? How Gaming Helped me Deal with Depression « If You Tolerate This…

  2. Raymundo says:

    Fair play to the man for coming out and admitting he had a problem, we could have had another deaath in football and we don’t want that. Windass should feel proud of yourself for having the guts to admit it and try get help. Best of luck!

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