Depression in sports has reached an all time high, but with it comes the opposite. The need to be famous and respected for the sport you practice. Thousands, tens of thousands children dream and aspire to become something in the sports world. Whether it’s a footballer, a cricketer or the next tennis superstar. England is not short of ambition when it comes to sports. Is it the fame, the glory, or just the money? With the latest London Olympics success sports people have never been more centred in the media spotlight. Everyone wants to know what the latest Olympic superstars have been up to. After the tremendous pressure of a home country Olympics do they not deserve a break? Or is it possible we are too stuck in the celebrity culture of the sport and missing the real issues? Are we only shown the highs and shielded from the devastating lows?
As a nation we go mad for football. Hundreds of thousands of fans flock to their favourite football clubs to watch the latest young players score goals and win matches. With British superstar David Beckham currently the highest paid sports person in the world it’s not hard to see the appeal of becoming a footballer. However the whirlwind of fancy cars, expensive houses and high pay comes to an end pretty quickly in most footballers’ lives. Injury is a serious factor in this game. A broken ankle or dodgy knee and you’re done. So what happens after the lucrative contracts disappear? For some sports players, its depression.
For footballer Clarke Carlisle the end of career signalled to him the end of his life. Playing for the England under 21’s team, Carlisle was familiar with the limelight and the harsh reality that inevitably follows. With a knee injury in 2011, Clarke was unable to play and with his career in tatters he could see no way forward. Clarke now speaks publicly of his battle with severe depression. In documentary ‘Footballs suicide secret’ Clarke likens himself to football legend Gary Speed. Speed took his own life at 42 after suffering depression for years. Speed’s death rocked the sports world and brought to light the serious underlying issues of these seemingly ‘invincible’ football stars. Sports star’s stories of alcoholism, depression and severe drug addictions have increased over the last few years. Players often likening the loss of their career to the loss of their lives. Unable to see anything else they have to offer and often left without support. This is true for footballer Dean Windass who played for Hull City. Windass has spoken publicly of his experiences with depression and alcoholism due to injury ending his career. Like Windass, footballers often experience a loss of direction after their career is over and a feeling of failure.
Many Olympians have recently come forward sharing their struggles with the press in an attempt to raise awareness of depression in sports. British cyclist and Olympic champion Jason Kenny has spoken of his depression after the latest games. Kenny describes the intense high of being at the Olympics and the lows he experienced after they had finished. With all the partying over, Kenny spoke about the daunting task of starting to train again and returning to reality. He felt he wouldn’t get any higher in his career. Another famous British sportsman who has understood the toll of success is boxer Ricky Hatton. After losing for the title of the world’s top light weight boxer in 2009, Hatton suffered severe depression and contemplated suicide.
Recognising the symptoms of depression is key in the solution. As is communication, often people do not speak out about their struggles because of the stigma that has been associated with mental illness. The Birmingham Counsellor Service is here to help. If you suffer from any of these problems call our counsellors for confidential vital support. We have experienced counsellors who can help with any issue you may be experiencing.