Mental Health in Football: how to tackle it ‘head-on’

The University of Nottingham Football Club recently held a workshop to raise awareness of men’s mental health issues. A University of Nottingham alumnus, Ed Tarlton, who devised the session, was invited to share his past experiences with current players on Saturday afternoon.

There was a general sense of optimism following the talk, as current players on the UoN team were moved by the insight into Tarlton’s personal battle with depression whilst studying.

He cited the combination of toxic masculinity and the off-the-field culture within university sport as potential problem areas for young men who suffer from depression at university.

With suicide the biggest killer of young men, and mental health problems now affecting 1 in 6 adults in the UK, this is an issue that must be addressed. Mental health and depression are societal problems that can no longer be ignored.

“off-the-field issues can begin to affect sporting performance, which in turn, can exacerbate player’s problems further.”

Tarlton was very appreciative of his opportunity to return to Nottingham and discuss the subject. Impressed by the attitudes of current players, he welcomed the chance to now draw upon his experiences to help others, who may also face similar challenges before, during or after their time in tertiary education.

The former University of Nottingham footballer also emphasised the importance of welfare representatives within the University Sports clubs. These members can act as a confidant for anyone on the team battling mental health related issues. This ensures that whatever problem someone might be facing, there will always be someone to talk to, and they do not have to suffer in silence. Indeed, off-the-field issues can begin to affect sporting performance, which in turn, can exacerbate player’s problems further.

The event was well received by the football team, who worked on tasks geared towards the promotion of a club support structure for those who may encounter mental health difficulties.

With a striking response shown by the Nottingham community, hopefully team members dealing with personal issues in the future will not hesitate to share these concerns with a teammate, should they feel able, to help them overcome their struggles.

“you’ve got to take a step back and consider yourself sometimes.”

Speaking with a member of the football team who attended the conference, he said, “keeping good mental health is really important in the modern day, there’s a lot of pressure on us lads, academically as well as on the pitch and managing it can be a nightmare. Today’s speech really showed you’ve got to take a step back and consider yourself sometimes.”

It must be noted that there are numerous medical support networks out there that can treat mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.

Tarlton himself, dedicated his contribution to the session to his former counselor at Nottingham, Rob Sharpe, who he believes was the key to his eventual recovery.

Anyone afflicted by mental health should seek the necessary treatment. There’s nothing shameful about acknowledging a problem, and tackling it head on.

Rory Jones

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Featured image courtesy of A Health Blog via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. Image licence found here.

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