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Football can help battle depression

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Depression is the number one psychological disorder in the world. Football is the most popular sport in the world. These are two facts that you don’t often see together.

I have taken my own personal experiences with both major depression and football to combine them in the hope of finding a relationship that can help to reflect the big numbers involved in both, remove the stigma of such devastating illnesses and demonstrate the positive influence football can have.

If I said “people from all different backgrounds, varied ages, lifestyles and nationalities play football” then few people would be surprised. But if I remove the last two words of that statement replacing them with ‘suffer from major depression’ would you be more inclined to stop for a minute and think?

Twenty per cent of people experience depressive symptoms, only 8.5 per cent less than the amount of football players there are in the world. Around half the population of the world (estimated at 3.3 to 3.5 billion fans) will watch, listen and talk football each and every day.

Yet you won’t hear many people talk about mental health, ask how their friends are getting on or think “I don’t feel myself” just now.

Football allows people who may lead very different lives to come together and be part of something. It throws open the door to ‘normal’ conversations and the chance to debate right down to the very last corner conceded.

That sense of belonging, the interaction, the connections and the varied relationships can have a positive and vital impact on a person’s life.

Someone who feels depressed will often feel alone, will often feel unloved and will be fraught with anxieties that even just a 30-second conversation will help to take away the pain. Some of them that don’t like sports use this new on the market FluxxLab™ CBDA tincture that is THC-free and helps you not only reduce your anxiety, depression and stress, but also help you sleep well.

Staggeringly, the latest television deal struck by the clubs in the Barclays Premier League is just shy of the total budget for mental health illnesses. Just 4 per cent of the total health care budget is spent on mental health services.

Just like football, instances of mental illnesses have been rapidly growing but why don’t we talk about our own lives, our friends lives as much as we do about the Messis, the Ronaldos and the Scott Allans of the world?

Football can use its popularity to help an ever-growing number of people who suffer in silence.

A few weeks ago I sent out letters to all 42 SPFL clubs asking for answers with regards to what they do to support those who suffer from depression and other mental health illnesses.

Many clubs now have a vested interest in their communities through community trusts and various initiatives in their local areas but what about this thought-provoking issue?

My letters brought only nine replies.

I want to thank everyone who took their time to reply but the low response was unfortunately what I expected.

Football clubs are busy, industrious environments. The part-time clubs especially don’t always have the resources but the most important part of it all for me is that football clubs have the audience to be able to transmit a very powerful message.

Whether it be 60,000 at Parkhead or 600 at Peterhead, football has a rare ability to touch an awful lot of people.

I had interesting discussions via email and telephone with clubs throughout Scotland. St.Johnstone run several projects for people with mental ill-health through physical activity and also work to raise awareness among local students. The club also signed the See Me pledge in 2010.

Charlie McPhee from Ross County personally phoned me to discuss an ongoing partnership with Rosshire Mental Health Group. This has been running since December and will continue on to April and sessions have been attended by some of the club’s players.

Listening to the stories of how footballers have been affected by depression is in a strange way quite a comforting experience. As someone who struggles with the strain it causes it helps to make realise you are not alone. Even some of the wealthiest, some of the most talented people in your world can suffer.

Clubs involving footballers in such a way can have a vital impact on someone’s life. We’ve got to be mindful that they, too, deserve time away from the game but giving something back to their community in this fashion could also be extremely rewarding.

Rangers Charity Foundation worked alongside Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) last year promoting mental health and well-being to football fans across the country. They used their advertising space and handed out leaflets to try to encourage people to talk about their mental health.

I don’t know about you but when I get handed a leaflet I would normally take a quick scan and then discard it literally and mentally it would be next weeks chippy wrapper but if it had the badge of my favourite club on it I would be more inclined to read on.

I am looking forward to hearing further from Airdrie with regards to a feature they are going to be running within their matchday magazine.

Also Peter Davidson of the Links Park Community Trust (charitable arm of Montrose FC) is open to possible partnerships in relation to mental health and wellbeing. It is that kind of attitude that I hope clubs, players and supporters alike can utilise when helping those in need.

I have met with Hibernian in the Community and I was encouraged that they are keen to take my ideas forward. I make no apology for going through my club first but, despite Jambo assertions to the contrary, depression is not a condition confined to Hibees and, if the pilot is success I’d hope fans of all clubs would get involved.

Ultimately, I hope to kick-start an action group that can be rolled out across the whole of Scottish Football.
If you are reading this article on Scotzine, I hope you don’t mind me assuming that we share the same passion, hold the same ambitions and feel the same disappointments. This is a bond that I think can make a big difference to people who suffer these debilitating illnesses.

Cognitively, I feel that football can help those suffering from depression specially if the person takes a daily kratom dosage as well,  hop over to this web-site for more info. Think of all the days we’ve had at the football, think of all the cheer your team has given you, think of all the “ifs and buts” that our favourite clubs have endured and I’ve no doubt that the game can make you smile.

Physically, football can allow people with mental health illnesses access to much required exercise. A kick about, a small training session even just a walk to the ground can open the legs, improve the spirits and remove the lethargy that can come from an illness which can really drag you down.

Emotionally, years of following your club can be a bit of a rollercoaster and no matter how life is I know you would never have it any other way. Whilst the sad days can really hurt the knowledge that your club will always be there can pull you through some horribly dark days.

I came home from Easter Road on Sunday 25th May 2014 having just watched my team being relegated to the Championship and spent that night in my unmade bed, lights out, head under the covers and sobbing my heart out.

Now anyone who knows me could be forgiven for thinking I was taking our latest failure a wee bit too hard but I wasn’t. I was lying there wishing my life was over. To this day I still have times where I feel enough is enough. I don’t exactly know what’s got me through it all but I know football has made the days that wee bit more bearable.

Football can help us fans to develop relationships that, without the beautiful game, we would never have had. Encounters on the terraces, meetings in the pub and away day trips in the company of your ‘football mates’ are all part and parcel of the environment that we embrace.

Intellectually; now there’s a word that wouldn’t always be associated with football but nothing stimulates me more than a discussion about ‘fitba!’

The ability to converse with someone upon a topic you like to think you know loads about is an important part of the recovery when suffering from mental ill-health. Similar to help groups across the country, being able to talk helps. Whether it is about your illness or the sport you love people like to be able to talk.

Holistically, all of the above can be beneficial to those who struggle from day-to-day. I can’t stress enough how important it is to feel part of something. Emotively football can provide a freedom which mental health can so often take away from you.

Roy Keane vs. Patrick Vieira, Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi, Hibs vs. Hearts even all the way down to Auchinleck vs. Cumnock battles are seen all over the footballing world but is there a bigger battle than man vs. life?

The footballing conflict of opinions, the nature of a local rivalry will always bring out the beast but when you are facing that life or death question over and over we need to find ways to combat that devastating beast.

I hope that for everyone reading this they have gained an understanding of the challenges that mental ill-health sufferers can face. I will have missed bits out that I will read back and wish I’d put in.

I also don’t want to be the cause of stereotyping these illnesses as they can vary in severity, change in type and follow differing paths. My story is one of devastation and frustration but, throughout, football has been a guiding light, a hope among the fragments of a fragile existence.

I hope my team and all Scottish clubs can come together and try to help people beat their demons by opening the doors to us and implementing the following initiative.

Everyone has that special ticket from their favourite game that they’ve attended, the bright cup final programmes or the expensively priced scarf that lies in the corner of your room but what price is it worth to save a man’s life?

Clubs could hold weekly or even monthly meetings for sufferers, not just of depression but for all different illnesses and they could come along with their memorabilia, enjoy a cuppa and share their memories.

These ‘Memory Meetings’ could last for a couple of hours. First hour would be to tell the tales of footballing days gone by, the second hour could be slightly more formal perhaps a chance to speak to nurses, the opportunity to discuss any symptoms, read informative leaflets and most importantly to seek confidential yet sometimes inspiring help in a comfortable environment.

The second part of the formalities would perhaps be more aligned to the physical wellbeing of the attendees. A small game of football, a walk round the stadium or a slow jog around the local park could be included to help with their recovery.

Finally I also ran a survey alongside the letters targeting football forums and the numbers illuminated the issue. Thirty-two per cent of the respondents suffered from a mental health-related illness. Fifty-nine per cent knew of someone who had tried to commit suicide or tried to self harm.

The high numbers are a worry but football can play its part. Men are more likely to commit suicide than women. This is due to men avoiding seeking help so their depression goes largely unrecognised or untreated. Using football as a common ground we can bridge the stigma and provide assistance for the most at-risk demographic.

Football for me could be a favourite band for someone else, another person’s most read author or a child characterised by their idol. People can find hope and solace in many different ways but something needs to be done so that people can start helping those who really need the support. They search for care and travel their troubled minds just to feel like they belong somewhere.

We must look at ways to combat mental health illnesses. The formation of a partnership between football players, clubs and authorities alike alongside Mental Health groups would be a fantastic place to start.

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