It’s hard, isn’t it. Going to bed one day, and struggling to get out of it the next. The writhing in the pit of your stomach as your head screams at you to get up, but your legs won’t work. Gripped by anxiety and consumed by pressure. That’s the harsh reality of depression. It’s difficult to imagine your heroes having it, even harder to imagine a football player having a tough time.
But the amour of a Range Rover and a Rolex doesn’t make you immune from the pressures of playing in front of thousands and the expectations of millions. Living in South West London doesn’t protect you from faceless accounts on social media constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough. A big weekly wage does not protect you from pressure of a multi-million pound industry. Anybody that thinks that is the case is wrong. It’s a myth. There is no escape from the limelight in the world of Twitter and Instagram, especially as an athlete.
This week Fulham left-back Joe Bryan published a particularly poignant post giving an insight in to the toughest period of his life. His post focused on a time last February, away to West Ham. And he joins a handful of footballers who have challenged the macho stereotypes of football, to admit their deepest fears to thousands. Whilst his few sentences on Instagram may seem like a small gesture, this post provides a platform for thousands who suffer in silence every day. Those who think “am I good enough?” – you are. Do footballers feel the same? They do. Are they human? Yes. One in four adults suffer from mental health issues according to the Mind charity. You are not alone.
Joe commands huge respect, a shining light in a dreadful season for Fulham whose talent was unwavering despite his hamstring “exploding”, in his own words, against Everton. His compassion off the pitch has been demonstrated on a number of occasions since he joined the club, and is a major factor in what makes Fulham great. His compassion, intelligence and awareness in his general person was highlighted with that post. In a society where mental health awareness is at an all-time high, it is incredibly refreshing to see an elite level sportsman opening up about his struggles. It’s vital that teenagers actively see people like Joe voicing his feelings as anxiety levels in children continues to sky rocket with platforms such as Snapchat putting them under pressure to act as they want to be perceived rather than who they are. It is to be applauded, it is a huge step.
Footballers shouldn’t have to be role models, but they have the power to do so much good if they choose to. Joe Bryan is a true footballing role model, and to have him playing for our football club shows how lucky we are. Joe, you have the support of thousands from SW6 to Ashton Gate.
If you are feeling low, or alone, please speak to a member of family, your GP, your friends or excellent charities like MIND, CALM or the Samaritans. Their numbers are below:
Samaritans Hotline: 116 123 – 24/7
Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393 – 9-6pm Monday – Friday
CALM Hotline: 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm – Midnight all year round