West Ham stars encourage men to talk about mental health

Mental health problems can affect anyone, no matter who you are or what job you do. Time to Talk Day 2019 is encouraging people to have conversations about their mental health and West Ham United stars have opened up in support of the campaign.

There have been many recent and well-documented examples of mental health problems among current and ex-professional footballers. With one in four people affected by mental health issues, Andriy Yarmolenko, Ryan Fredericks and Nathan Holland opened up about what the term ‘mental health’ means to them and how they deal with the internal and external pressures of being professional footballers.

The Players’ Project has committed to raising awareness of the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, spanning both mental and physical health. The trio encouraged everyone to be there for one another and have their own conversation about mental health with a friend, family member, work colleague or teammate this Time to Talk Day – a social movement working to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems led by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

Click here to read more about the West Ham United Players' Project

Fredericks and Holland agreed that everyone’s mental health is unique to that individual, but the benefit of sharing experiences is universal.

“For me, mental health is about what goes on behind closed doors. Everyone goes through issues but it’s about voicing those issues and how to deal with them,” said right-back Fredericks.

“A lot of men feel the need to be strong all the time and I’m probably one for that as well. I don’t like to share my feelings too much, but I like to deal with things in-house and deal with problems myself, but there will always be tough times when you need to get something off your chest and it doesn’t make you any less of a man or less strong to show your emotions.

“Sometimes, you get something off your chest and you feel better and you can get on with your life.”

“Everyone deals with mental health in different ways. Some people keep it to themselves and some people speak to others. I think you should always have the confidence to speak to your coach and let them know how you feel,” winger Holland said:

While many supporters may see high-profile footballers as heroes or villains, depending on their performances on the pitch, they are all human beings whose mental health is affected by many of the pressures felt by those same fans.

With the added expectation of performing in front of millions of people every week, in addition to the frustration felt when they are unable to play through injury, some players are strong enough to deal with everything their lives throw at them, but some are not.

Yarmolenko, who has been sidelined since September with a long term injury said he has benefitted from being able to share his disappointment with those closest to them.

“Of course, it’s not the easiest to be without football because I love this, but it’s happened and you must concentrate on your recovery and of course everyone helps me – my family, my teammates and the staff because here in West Ham we are one big family and it’s really helped me,” said the Ukraine winger, who is currently going through rehabilitation following Achilles surgery.

Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change, said: “Mental health problems are common and can affect any one of us, no matter who you are and no matter what job you do, and this includes professional footballers. Yet, too often people are afraid to talk openly about mental health for fear of being judged.

“It’s fantastic that West Ham United is supporting Time to Talk Day and encouraging others to have a conversation about mental health.

“We might think we know how our friends are doing. However, in a world where many of us keep in touch via social media where many of us only share our ‘best’ bits’, we’re urging everyone to use Time to Talk Day as an opportunity to break down barriers and have real and meaningful conversations about their mental health.”

For more information about how to make a conversation about mental health and Time to Talk Day 2019, click here.