Mansfield Town manager John Dempster and midfielder Alex MacDonald today spoke frankly about the pressures in the game on World Mental Health Day.
With society desperate to tackle the growing number of young men who take their own lives or suffer in silence with mental health issues, it is becoming very apparent football has more than its fair share, despite many of them seemingly living the dream to the wider world.
“Some things are bigger than football. There are serious issues within the game with mental health,” said Dempster, who has recently appointed former striker Drewe Broughton onto his staff to help players with both physical and mental issues.
“I’ve had quite a few of my former team mates find themselves in rehab during their career or at the end, Drewe being one of them.
“He is someone who will speak not only from his personal experiences but also the players he has dealt with most recently, helping them get through some tough times.
“When you look at the suicide rate for young males under 40 it’s alarming. It’s important for people to realise it’s good to talk.
“Just having a cup of coffee with a mate and unloading on him or in the pub with a beer, having a chat about how you’re feeling.
“If you’re struggling with something it’s important.
“It’s great there is a day to make this aware of issues going on in today’s society.
“I have personally not had any but I have been close to people who have.”
Dempster said that in such a tough environment as professional football, the stigma had been there not to open up over your feelings.
He said: “In football there is the old adage - get on with it. You’re paid to do something you love. You’ve got a good life, you’re paid well, man up!
“But finances have got nothing to do with mental health. It’s a much bigger issue than that in football or any other walk of life.
“As a human being it’s important that we support each other and, with those people that are struggling who want to be able to live their lives with dignity and enjoy their lives, it’s important we get round each other in difficult times and make sure we’re all okay.”
Midfielder Alex MacDonald agreed, saying: “It’s been quite a part of me with friends and family, none more so than some friends in football who have opened up to me with it.
“In football it’s been rife for years and you’ve seen a lot of people come out and spoken about it now. It used to be frowned upon and you’d be looked upon as weak at times.
“But the stigma now is not about being a weak person. We all know anyone can suffer with these things.”
On Broughton’s appointment to the staff to deal with these issues with his first hand experience, Dempster added: “Drewe has liased with players in groups and individually. He speaks to plays about football and also their personal lives.
“He’s here to help improve performance with the rest of the staff but we need players in the right frame of mind to win a football match.”