This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and figures from across football and beyond are coming together to encourage others to talk about mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Week is an initiative led by the UK-based Mental Health Foundation. Their message of increased awareness and understanding is being echoed around the world, with #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek trending worldwide on social media.

Mental ill health is the most common form of disability, with 1 in every 4 people affected by this at some stage during their lifetime.

Mental ill health can take many forms, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder and many more. It does not discriminate, and can affect people of all ages, races, backgrounds and lifestyles.

A number of prominent current and former football players have already spoken about their experiences of mental health this week, and some of their stories can be found below.

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon spoke about his experiences, including the support he received following a 'bout' of depression during the current football season. The former Northern Ireland international also revealed he had similar experiences during his playing career.

Lennon said, “The job is difficult enough when you're feeling okay. But when you suffer from a bout of depression everything is magnified. You feel 10 times worse about things.”

Scotland international Kris Boyd urged players to speak about mental health, as he announced that he is in the process of setting up a foundation designed to offer support to players with mental ill health. Boyd’s brother took his own life last year after experiencing mental ill health.

Boyd said, “The biggest struggle is to speak and don't be ashamed. We have this stigma about mental health, that we can't speak about it. Hopefully, by raising awareness, more people can come forward.”

Former England international Paul Gascoigne spoke about his own experiences, including being sectioned under the UK Mental Health Act, and the suicide of his 22-year-old nephew. Gascoigne also spoke about Everton and England midfielder Aaron Lennon, who was detained under the Act last week.

Gascoigne said, “You look at the Everton player who has just been sectioned. There are a lot of people who have got everything, but inside they don’t share enough. There needs to be more done. It is a macho thing; they think ‘I’m not doing this because no one will like us’.”

Former Welsh international midfielder Robbie Savage, now working in the media industry, spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live about the loss of his father. Colin Savage was diagnosed with Pick’s disease, a rare form of dementia, that ultimately led to his death at the age of 63.

Savage said, “I remember I was in the hospital with him and football came on the TV. He looked at the TV, and he looked at me, and it brought a little smile to his face. Somewhere in there, I knew he knew where he was at that moment.”

It is important to remove the stigma around discussing mental health. If you feel you are experiencing mental ill health or have noticed a change in someone else, talk to a friend, family member, colleague or trained professional about how you feel. Talking about mental health leads to increased awareness and understanding, and could help to save a life.

For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week, please click here, and join the discussion on social media using the hashtag #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. For more on mental health, please visit the Mental Health Europe and Mind websites.

Published 09/05/2017