Arsene Wenger says that the culture of football, where men are supposed to be strong and front-up to any problems, can play a part in players being reluctant to admit they’re suffering from mental health problems.
The situation was brought into focus this week when it was reported that Everton’s Aaron Lennon had been detained under the mental health act.
The difficulties Wenger spoke about were highlighted by the likes of the Daily Mail who conflated his problems with his salary:
Like the gigantic wankblasters they are, they’ve since deleted that Tweet, but it’s a dismal thing to write, as if mental health issues shouldn’t apply to those who earn lots of money.
Just like physical ailments, mental health problems are indiscriminate, and don’t care about salary, lifestyle, how many goals you’ve scored, or anything else.
The Arsenal manager was asked about it at his press conference today, and hinted that such is the stigma that surrounds this area, many players would be unwilling to ask their club for help in case it was perceived as a kind of weakness.
“We help on the mental front players who want help, of course,” he said. “It’s difficult for the players, when they do not meet their needs – like all of us – they are frustrated and they suffer certainly with self esteem in situations.
“The expectation level around them is very high. Their family, their agents the pressure on them is very big. It’s not easy to deal with that when you’re at a young age.
“When needed, we try to help them, yes.”
Asked if Arsenal and other clubs had the necessary resources to help players, he said, “Yes, but sometimes the players don’t want to show [that they need help].
“It could be interpreted as a weakness inside the club.
“I believe you understand that most of the players when they want help they do it outside the club.”
Let’s hope that talking about these things more openly will help reduce the unnecessary shame people feel about suffering mental health problems.
No doubt there are people reading this story who have gone through difficult times themselves, and those who don’t quite understand how debilitating it can be.
Just because you can’t see a problem, doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
Let’s continue to talk, and to listen to each other.