Open main menu

Mental health in association football

The subject of mental health in association football has been described as a "stigma" in the sport,[1] although other professional sports are also affected.[2] Professional footballers suffer more from symptoms of depression and anxiety than the general public.[3]

Agostino Di Bartolomei suffered from clinical depression after retiring from professional football, and eventually committed suicide by shooting himself in his villa in San Marco di Castellabate, on 30 May 1994, ten years to the day after his former club Roma had lost the European Cup final to Liverpool on penalties.[4][5]

During the first part of the 2000–01 season with Everton, Paul Gascoigne struggled with depression after losing his place in the first team following a series of injuries and a lack of fitness.[6] Later in his career, during his time with Chinese club Gansu Tianma, he went to America in April 2003 for treatment against alcoholism and depression.[7]

Former professional players Robert Enke and Gary Speed have committed suicide; both suffered from depression. Enke threw himself in front of a train.[8][9][10][11] Five years after Enke's death his wife stated that she believed depression in sport was no longer a taboo subject.[12] Speed hanged himself.[13][14] In September 2018 his wife said that she a discovered a letter written by Speed as a teenager which hinted at his long-term depression.[15]

Clarke Carlisle stated that he contemplated suicide after becoming injured early in his career,[16] and in December 2014 attempted suicide due to the severe depression he was suffering from.[17][18]

Sebastian Deisler was hospitalized after being unable to cope with the pressures of professional football, eventually retiring from the sport at the age of 27.[11][19]

In November 2008, Gianluigi Buffon revealed in his autobiography Numero 1 that he had suffered from depression between December 2003 and June 2004, and that he even saw a psychologist during this period in order to overcome it;[20] he later elaborated further on his struggles with depression in 2013.[21] In January 2019, he also revealed that because of his depression, he had suffered from panic attacks during his early career with Juventus, even missing a game as a result during the 2003–04 season.[22]

Ex-player Mickey Bennett set up an organization called Unique Sports Counselling to help footballers deal with mental health issues.[23]

In February 2016 Steve Harper spoke out about his mental health problems while in between clubs.[24] The PFA had to apologise after initially criticising his comments.[25]

In May 2016, professional footballer Chris Mitchell committed suicide. In October 2018 his family spoke out about his struggles with mental health.[26]

In May 2017, Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act, and he received treatment for a "stress-related illness".[27] In March 2019 he spoke about the incident, and said that other players had asked him for advice.[28]

In June 2017, Steven Caulker spoke about his struggles with depression, and his addiction to alcohol and gambling.[29]

In February 2018 David Cox stated that he had been mocked by both players and fans for discussing his mental health problems.[30]

In March 2018, the UK government announced plans to deal with mental health in professional sports.[31] Later that month, Harry Smith released a statement stating that he was seeking help for mental health and gambling addiction problems.[32] That same month, Danish player Jannik Skov Hansen talked about the depression and suicidal thoughts he had experienced earlier in his career.[33]

In April 2018 The Secret Footballer, an anonymous former Premier League player, talked about his depression.[34]

In June 2018, England international Danny Rose stated that he had been diagnosed with depression.[35]

In September 2018, professional footballer Marvin Sordell suggested that clubs should have full-time counsellors to assist players with depression and other mental health issues.[36] When Sordell retired from football in July 2019 he cited his mental health.[37]

Later that month Anthony Knockaert also revealed his struggles with mental health issues,[38] as did David Cotterill.[39]

In October 2018, Michael Carrick announced that he had suffered from depression for 2 years following the defeat in the 2009 UEFA Champions League Final.[40] Later that month Christian Nadé revealed that he had tried to commit suicide in 2014 following struggles with depression.[41]

In May 2018, Andrés Iniesta revealed that he suffered from depression before the 2010 FIFA World Cup due to his injuries and the death of his friend Daniel Jarque.[42][43]

In June 2019, former player Emmanuel Eboué spoke about his ongoing struggles with mental health.[44] In August 2019 Martin Ling discussed his mental health problems.[45]

Billy Kee has spoken publicly about his struggles with anxiety and depression, which led him to considering giving up football.[46] In September 2019 it was revealed that Kee was seeking treatment for depression, anxiety, and bulimia.[47]

In September 2019 the English Football League announced a scheme in conjunction with mental health charity Mind called 'Get Set to Go'.[48] This included a series of street art pieces to raise awareness about mental health.[49]

Later that month Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson said clubs had a duty of care in relation to players' mental well-being if they were injured.[50]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "Football's Suicide Secret". BBC Three. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  2. ^ Clare Murphy (11 November 2009). "The pressures of professional play". BBC News. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  3. ^ "The Fifpro study shows players suffer more mental issues than public". BBC Sport. 6 October 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  4. ^ Tom Sweetman (23 October 2012). "11 Metri - The Penalty". ESPN FC. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  5. ^ Oliver Kay (22 April 2018). "Agostino Di Bartolomei, the Italian legend who committed suicide exactly ten years after Liverpool beat Roma in the European Cup final". The Times. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  6. ^ Gascoigne 2004, p. 291
  7. ^ "Chinese club hand Gazza ultimatum". ESPN. 21 June 2003. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  8. ^ "Goalkeeper suicide stuns football". BBC Sport. 11 November 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  9. ^ Sarah Crompton (27 September 2011). "Tragedy of goalkeeper Robert Enke's secret struggle". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  10. ^ "Suicide keeper battled depression". BBC Sport. 11 November 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  11. ^ a b Patrick Andersson (11 November 2009). "A personal tribute to Robert Enke". BBC Sport. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Robert Enke's widow: Depression in sport is 'no longer taboo'". BBC Sport. 23 September 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  13. ^ Sion Morgan (3 July 2013). "Tragic Gary Speed's sister tells of Wales legend's secret depression". Wales Online. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  14. ^ Allison Pearson (30 November 2011). "Gary Speed: the last taboo is the agony of distress". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  15. ^ "Gary Speed: Old letter hinted that 'maybe mental illness was always there'". BBC Sport. 17 September 2018. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  16. ^ Clarke Carlisle (9 July 2013). "Depression and suicide: Football's secret uncovered". BBC Three. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  17. ^ "Clarke Carlisle in hospital after collision with lorry". BBC Sport. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  18. ^ "Clarke Carlisle: Ex-PFA chairman reveals suicide attempt". BBC Sport. 5 February 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  19. ^ "Fußball: Bayern-Profi Deisler beendet Karriere". Spiegel Online (in German). Der Spiegel. 16 January 2007. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  20. ^ Gianluigi Buffon (13 November 2008). "Buffon: Ricco e famoso la depressione mi prese lo stesso" [Buffon: I'm rich and famous but depression got me anyway] (in Italian). La Stampa. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  21. ^ Marcus Christenson (10 September 2013). "Gianluigi Buffon: from depression to Italy's record books". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  22. ^ "Gianluigi Buffon: Paris St-Germain goalkeeper reveals he had depression and panic attacks at Juventus". BBC Sport. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  23. ^ Fabio Zucchelli (24 May 2013). "Helping footballers open up about their mental health". The Sport in Mind. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  24. ^ Luke Edwards (12 February 2016). "Sunderland goalkeeper Steve Harper: I was out of work and felt myself slipping back into a dark hole". The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  25. ^ Luke Edwards (15 February 2016). "PFA apologise to Steve Harper after labelling him 'emotional' over mental health issues". The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  26. ^ "Chris Mitchell: Family of tragic footballer on raising mental health awareness". BBC Sport. 16 October 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  27. ^ "Aaron Lennon: Everton winger detained under Mental Health Act". BBC Sport. 3 May 2017 – via
  28. ^ "Aaron Lennon: Burnley winger says other players approached him about mental health struggles". BBC Sport. 12 March 2019 – via
  29. ^ Dominic Field (29 June 2017). "Steven Caulker: 'I've sat here for years hating myself … This year was almost the end'". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  30. ^ "Players taunted footballer over depression". BBC Sport. 2 February 2018. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  31. ^ "Mental health action plan for elite athletes put in place by government". BBC Sport. 21 March 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  32. ^ "Harry Smith: Millwall striker getting help for mental health and addiction issues". BBC Sport. 23 March 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  33. ^ Farzam Abolhosseini (29 March 2018). "Superliga-spiller ramte bunden: Jeg havde selvmordstanker" (in Danish). BT. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  34. ^ "The Secret Footballer: I want to 'out' myself - but fear I'll be sued". BBC Sport. 9 April 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  35. ^ "World Cup 2018: England's Danny Rose reveals depression diagnosis". BBC Sport. 6 June 2018. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  36. ^ "Marvin Sordell calls for full-time counsellors in football clubs". BBC Sport. 13 September 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  37. ^ "Marvin Sordell: Burton Albion striker retires from professional football at 28". BBC Sport. 26 July 2019 – via
  38. ^ "Anthony Knockaert: Brighton & Hove Albion winger reveals mental health struggles". BBC Sport. 20 September 2018. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  39. ^ Chris Wathan (24 September 2018). "David Cotterill: Wales winger opens up about depression". BBC Sport. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  40. ^ "Michael Carrick: 'I was depressed for two years after Champions League final defeat'". BBC Sport. 9 October 2018. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  41. ^ Daldeep Kaur (30 October 2018). "Christian Nade: Former Hearts, Raith & Dumbarton striker on his suicide attempt". BBC Sport. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  42. ^ "Andrés Iniesta conmueve a todos hablando de cómo salió de "pozo" en el que cayó". Lecturas (in Spanish). RBA. 28 May 2018. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  43. ^ "Andrés Iniesta confiesa a Risto Mejide que sufrió una depresión antes de ir al Mundial". Hola! (in Spanish). 28 May 2018. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  44. ^ "Emmanuel Eboue: Former Ivory Coast defender reveals his struggles continue". BBC Sport. 11 June 2019 – via
  45. ^ "Depression: Leyton Orient's Martin Ling talks about his mental health problems". BBC Sport. 1 August 2019 – via
  46. ^ "Accrington Stanley striker Billy Kee speaks openly about his struggle with severe anxiety and depression". BBC Sport. 7 February 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  47. ^ "Billy Kee: Accrington Stanley striker receiving treatment for depression". BBC Sport. 10 September 2019 – via
  48. ^ "Get Set to Go: How EFL clubs and Mind are tackling mental health issues". BBC Sport. 19 September 2019 – via
  49. ^ "World Mental Health Day: Street art campaign launched by English Football League". BBC Sport. 10 October 2019 – via
  50. ^ "Motherwell: Clubs have duty of care for players' wellbeing - Robinson". BBC Sport. 27 September 2019 – via