Aaron Lennon believes that there are other professional footballers struggling with depression, and he has encouraged anyone suffering silently to “speak to someone, because there is a lot of help available and it can really make a difference.”
Speaking at a Burnley in the Community event this week, Lennon revealed that, in light of his own public bout with depression, he has made himself available as a sounding board for “a couple of players” already and he welcomes others in the game to do the same — quotes from the Guardian:
“I have spoken to a couple of players about it to offer them advice. They wanted to know what I’d been through and where to get help. There are probably still players out there who don’t want to talk about anything to anyone — I know because that is just what I was like — but my message would be to speak to someone because there is a lot of help available and it can really make a difference. The person I spoke to when I was being treated helped me massively within about 10 minutes.”
Lennon, of course, acknowledges that it’s something which is much easier said than done. He himself didn’t actively seek help, but was instead briefly detained under the UK’s Mental Health Act in May 2017. It’s not just current pros for whom Lennon fears, but the next wave of players coming through who come under intense scrutiny from a very early age.
“I’m not really the sort of person who finds it easy to ask for help; at least, I wasn’t until a couple of years ago. As a footballer, I knew how to look after my physical health but that was all — I didn’t know what to do about my mental wellbeing. I didn’t really know who to turn to when I started to feel low, and that’s why the situation got to where it did.”
“It was a gradual process. I didn’t realize I needed help until it was too late. I would tell my friends and family I was OK, but I really wasn’t. That’s why I think it’s brilliant that people are being put into schools, because people who need help can be difficult to spot, they tend to cover it up well.
“There’s a lot of pressure on kids nowadays, with social media and camera phones on top of their exams and schoolwork. I don’t think I’d want to go through it all again to be honest. What I would say though is that it is OK if you don’t feel great all the time, and that talking to people can help. I can really see the point of projects like this, because mental illness is definitely something you can recover from.”
Lennon, 31, believes he has made a full recovery and is back to operating as the best version of himself.