The Way I See It : By Darren Murphy

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RECENTLY, a variety of newspapers have run stories about football players who have suffered from mental health problems. Indeed, only this week, the BBC aired a documentary titled ‘Football’s Suicide Secret’. In the show, host Clarke Carlisle, a former premiership footballer and current chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, spoke openly about his own battle with depression. Even describing how at 21-years-old he had attempted to take his own life.

I’m all for anything that raises awareness of mental health issues. Although, it shouldn’t take the plight of a sports star to help improve the understanding of these types of disorders. With one in four of the British population estimated to suffer from some kind of mental illness in the course of a year, I can never understand why there are still vast amounts of people who are reluctant to accept that mental health problems exist.

Thankfully, we have come a long way in the treatment of the mentally ill, with methods such as submerging patients in ice baths until they lose consciousness or administering a massive electric shock to the brain now consigned to history. One inhumane method, known as “the bleeding practice”, was even used, whereby the patient would be drained of the supposed bad blood. Tragically, this would usually result in death or the patient needing lifelong care.

Understanding is the key word regarding mental health issues, and it’s easy to recognise when some people just don’t get it, particularly on occasions when comment such as “What’s he/she got to be depressed or worried about?” are expressed.

Let’s use footballers as a prime example. They earn enough money to do anything they wish and are worshipped by thousands of fans every weekend. It’s hard to apprehend these people being unhappy, but this is the nature of a beast such as mental illness. Young, old, middle-aged, rich, poor, male or femalem – it doesn’t matter. Mental disorders can affect any one of us. And just because it’s not physically visible, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be seriously debilitating.

In Britain, the most common cause of death among men aged under 35 is suicide. Conditions such as depression aren’t just illnesses, they are potential killers.

Although poorer and unemployed members of society are likely to be affected longer, it is thought that if receiving treatment, half of people with common mental disorders are back to their old selves after around 18 months. Which means if you suffer from a mental health issue, it’s important you reach out and receive the appropriate help, while remembering that it is possible to get better.

It’s also apparent that woman are more forthcoming in seeking help with mental illness, with one in four females receiving treatment, opposed to one in ten men. Although it’s unclear as to why this statistic is so skewed, it’s thought that social matters play a big part in men refusing to get help. Suffering from a mental disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, and you should hold no fears in looking for help, whether male or female. It makes you no less of a man or woman to admit you have problems.

What’s obvious to me is that we have to be pragmatic about the issue, as the statistics don’t lie. Only by using the facts and figures to improve our knowledge of mental illness can we help to eradicate the stigma which surrounds it.