Wednesday, 30 November 2011

PFA Send The Footballers Guidebook

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) will send a booklet on handling depression to all ex-players following Gary Speed's death.

The 36-page guidebook was circulated to the union's 4,000 members this season.

While it is not known whether Speed was suffering from depression, the PFA is keen to act.

And 50,000 former professionals will receive the booklet as PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor wants to "let people know there is a support system".

The debate around mental health has grown since Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke took his own life in late 2009 and Rushden & Diamonds keeper Dale Roberts killed himself a year later.

Speed, the Wales manager and former Leeds, Newcastle and Wales midfielder, was found hanged at his home on Sunday, aged 42.

The booklet, entitled 'The Footballers' Guidebook', contains advice, helpine numbers and case studies on suffering with depression from Andy Cole, Neil Lennon, Stan Collymore, Paul Gascoigne and PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle.

But Susannah Strong, the author, admitted she found it "really, really difficult to get any footballer to talk about mental health".

She told BBC Sports World Have Your Say: "There's a huge amount of stigma and taboo around mental health.

"It's an extraordinary sport where you get people to the absolute physical perfection - and yet there's no attention paid whatsoever to the mental health of footballers.

"It's very, very hard for players to know where to go and who to turn to when they start feeling rough."

Peter Kay, the chief executive of the Sporting Chance clinic which helps sportsmen fight addiction, told the BBC that 10 players have been in touch since Speed's death.

"There has been a tremendous outpouring of emotion this week, an indication that Gary was regarded as one of our finest," said Taylor.

"This booklet went out at the beginning of the season after the deaths of Robert Enke and Dale Roberts, and after what has happened with Gary we have decided to widen its circulation.

"Mental problems have to be treated with understanding. Players can have panic attacks, fail to come terms with leaving football, finishing as a player, or the pressures of being a manager.

"We want to do all we can to try to avoid another tragedy like this."

The guidebook is designed to be easy to read and contains cartoons by 'Roy of the Rovers' illustrator Paul Trevillion.

But Strong warned: "Our booklet is a start but there's so much more to be done.

"The thing now is about prevention. It needs to be ok to talk about mental health.

"There needs to be more communication. That needs to start before people become unwell, right at the beginning."

Andy Cole
Neil Lennon
Stan Collymore
Paul Gascoigne
Clarke Carlisle