Mental Health and Wellbeing
Ian Ackley - May 2017 Mental health and wellbeing is something that inevitably impacts on us all at some point in our life. Whether it be extreme exposure to such things as sexual abuse (featuring commonly now in the media) or relates to issues such as loss or bereavement to name but three. It is widely recognised that at times there is a need for support whether that be from loved ones or from people or organisations outside of the family or your immediate group of friends. Formal therapy or counseling is something that in the UK can still be seen as a taboo and can have social stigmas attached to it. We use it less for staying well than getting well but it should be accessible and considered for either purpose. In the world of sport our wellbeing and state of mind can be influenced hugely by the pressures and lifestyles/cultures associated with that sport. Football is no exception, far from it. If we consider how many young people, boys and girls, who look to emulate their heroes and play on hallowed ground and then we consider how many make it, or more to the point how many don’t then we must recognise that we have a duty of care to each and every one of those young people in so much as we need to ensure their wellbeing both whilst playing and when they exit the game, whenever that may be. I for one recognize the feelings associated with investing your entire childhood in football and that dream not being realised. The impact can be earth shattering and leave a god-sized hole to fill. Something many of us fill with dysfunctional behavior, which ultimately impacts on our mental health and wellbeing. Not only do we have a duty of care to all young people who do not quite make it but we also have that same obligation to those who do. Some have short careers, others long and successful. But with each set of circumstances comes pressures, expectations and trappings that can ultimately, if not managed well, result in a person being affected in a significantly negative way. When you leave the game how do you adjust to life when everything may have been done for you since childhood ? What happens if that support is suddenly cut off? How do you learn to manage money when you may have oodles of time to kill and no one to guide you? How do you prepare for a new career and a new environment when all you may have known is a world of football? What about dealing with the pressures put upon you, either by yourself or the club and/or professionals around you ? As we can see there are many wide and varied reasons why our mental health can be impacted upon. Exposure to abuse is an obvious example but there is an urgent need to break the stigma associated with mental health and wellbeing and encouraging people to talk about their concerns and worries can only help to break that stigma. However if we are to encourage people to do so it is imperative that there is a concerted effort to ensure that support services are available to access. It is also true that there is a huge need to educate and raise awareness of mental health and in particular mental wellbeing (the notion of staying well). It is also true to say that all of the above, and much, much more applies to all sports and/or competitive environments. As good parents, citizens, professionals and adults we have a moral and social duty to ensure we foster an inclusive attitude towards mental health and wellbeing to the same degree, as we have to ensure our physical welfare. At SAVE we hope to work towards this end and collaborate with agencies/organisations, professionals and individuals including young people and children so that we all have a voice and a supportive culture whereby #itisok to speak out and #itsnotok to be the elephant in the room. By raising awareness and educating ourselves we can work collectively towards breaking these stigmas by recognising and undertaking the notion of a ‘responsibility for all’ to play their part in improving the landscape before us.