Written by Jamie Barnwell
The beautiful game, our beautiful game, my beautiful game. From its humble beginnings in 1863, the game of football has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. Football has continually evolved at a lightning rate. It's now faster with lighter boots, lighter balls, and immaculate pitches. Off the pitch technology allows games to reach a world-wide audience through television and social media. The game is constantly in the spotlight, as are the players and staff. But in the shadows of that spotlight are the less glamorous parts of pro-football. The stakes are high, the pressure to perform even higher. Thousands of screaming fans line the playing field. Children look up to you for your strength and ability and although the pay is great, that unspoken pressure builds, pressure that makes professional athletes vulnerable to mental illness.
I have lived in those shadows. The media is starting to shed more light on active players and former players like me who have experienced mental illness. There are many of us in football: best estimates are that that 1 in every 4 of us will experience mental illness within our lifetime. Current squad sizes would suggest that as many as 10 players could be experiencing poor mental health within most clubs at any given time (not to mention the well-being of coaching staff, backroom staff and everyone that contributes to the running of a football club). How did we get here? Why are people unable to reach out for support? The inside story about football is that it can be hard on mental health.
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