Soccer star Wayne Rooney’s openness about his mental health challenges highlights the need for greater support for footballers, says our member Gary Bloom.
Gary, a psychotherapist with Oxford United, the only one working within an English professional football club, believes every player should have access to a therapist.
“I think there should be one working with every football club,” Gary told the Daily Mirror. “We are trained to see if people are struggling. Because we see them every day, we notice changes in people.”
England and Manchester United’s all-time leading goal scorer opened up about his mental health and his use of alcohol during his playing career in a new documentary ‘Rooney’, which has been released on Amazon Prime.
Rooney, who is now the manager of Derby County, speaking to the PA news agency ahead of the release of the documentary, said: “There was a period in my career, for a long period of my career, I was suffering inside.
“I was finding ways to deal with that. A lot of it ended up in drinking.
“Where I felt stuck, I felt like I couldn’t go into the training ground and say I’m struggling with this mentally, or I’m struggling to deal with this on my own.
“It’s not something you do, where now it’s a lot easier to actually do that, which is good because obviously people are recognising the mental health issue and talking about it and trying to catch it early, especially with some of the young lads who are struggling with that.”
Gary, who is psychotherapist specialising in working with sportspeople, as well as a sports commentator, broadcaster and author, said things are gradually improving in football but much more could be done to support players.
He said: “The sad reality is that within professional football, the psychological aspect is often overlooked, especially when compared to footballers’ physical and technical training.
“Football lags behind other sports in providing mental health support for players. However, the high-profile nature of the sport and pressures on players means they’re often the sportspeople most in need of mental health support.
“There are also anxieties when footballers transition out of professional football such as when they retire, or when they get dropped from the team.”
Gary added: “There’s still stigma surrounding seeking counselling and psychotherapy in professional football.
“This is a shame as there’s enormous value for qualified counselling support for the psychological health of footballers, which in turn will have a positive impact on footballers’ professional performance.
“The launch of this documentary where Wayne Rooney opens up about his struggles shows some improvement in reducing the stigma around footballers discussing mental health openly and recognising the value of qualified counselling support.”
Banner image credit: Prime Video
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