In support of Mental Health Awareness week, this piece was originally published in cfcuk.
Our recent FA Cup third round tie at home to Nottingham Forest (we’re submitting before the game so either stunning victory or embarrassing defeat) there was an important message for all football supporters.
All third round games kicked off at one minute past their normal kick off times b, to encourage supporters to take a minute to think about mental health issues, the statement on the FA’s website reads;
“It is hoped that the initiative will raise awareness of the importance of looking after our mental health, with 60 seconds representing just the first step in the journey to improved wellbeing. During the minute delay, fans will be encouraged to consider the positive impact 60 seconds can have on their own wellbeing or in supporting a friend or family member.
Heads Up is partnering with Public Health England’s ‘Every Mind Matters’ across the Emirates FA Cup third round to draw attention to the simple steps we can all take to look after our mental health and wellbeing.”
Mental health is something very close to me, I’ve written about it a few times in this fanzine, about Diego Costa wanting to get out, a bit about Juan Mata and about the struggles faced by two of Chelsea’s top supporters Andy and Dan, who’ve gone public with their struggles.
I have first hand experience with my sister, who’s dealt with anxiety and my wife who struggled following the birth of our son Charlie. We went to get help and the doctor just fobbed us off to a phone helpline, my wife never answered that phone call and it was never followed up, I hope things have moved on since then.
What I’ve never spoken about is my own personal experience, this is the first time I’ve ever written about it, in fact I’ve never spoke to any one about it. My wife doesn’t know, my mum nor dad know anything about this.
I’m not sure how to even tell them I’ve written this, but once it’s out there it’s out there I suppose.
Anyway on with the story: this must’ve been around 2014, I was working in a store as an assistant manager and we were really struggling. Things weren’t being done and our area manager didn’t hold back when he was in about what he thought.
There was an instance when he turned up one morning and id been on day off the previous day and walked into a mess yet I seemed to take the blame for that. I was absolutely hating going into work each day.
If I found out that he was in the store before I’d got there then I’d sit in my car just dreading getting out and walking through the door. I just wanted to turn the car back on and drive home. I never did, because that’s not my character, I’ll take it on the chin, say nothing back and work harder to prove people wrong.
I eventually did that, as the manager left and I was left in charge for 3 months leading up to Christmas. The store won the Christmas cracker competition for best standards across the area and I was given my first store a couple of months afterwards.
But during the period before that I was low, lower than anything I’d ever experienced before in my life. I felt like a failure and was letting my family down.
I’d graduated from university in 2013 with, in my opinion an unfair, a 2:2 in sports journalism, and had failed to find any work in the industry. All I was offered was unpaid work but it was just wasn’t enough for me.
When I was at uni my dad would always say “he’ll be on Sunday supplement one day” and now I felt like I was a bit of an embarrassment to him that I’d gone to study and all I was doing was working in a shop.
And let me make it clear, this wasn’t a pressure that my mum or dad ever put on me. At any point growing up, If I wanted to do something then mum and dad made it happen, if I didn’t like it or wanted to stop then I could.
I know that no matter what, my parents were proud of me, but in my head I was building up this failure as letting them down, and was thinking perhaps it would be better for everyone if I wasn’t around.
If instead of being a failure who hadn’t achieved what I’d set out to do, I had died tragically young. It almost became a cop out for me to think this way.
I don’t know how serious I was about going through with it, I’d never planned anything or written any notes to explain why, but I’d thought about it. About ending the feelings and the sense of failure.
Things started to change for me, early 2015, my old manager came back, we turned things around and work became bearable again. I started writing in this very fanzine and before the league cup final win against Spurs in February 2015, Henry Winter mentioned one of my pieces on Sunday supplement on the morning of the game.
Dad said I’d make it and I did (sort of).
Then in July 2015, we found out we were expecting and the birth of my son in April 2016 completely changed my life. I’d do anything and everything for that boy and I made a promise to him when he was born that no matter what, I’ll always be there.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged between 18-45 and it’s a national health emergency. Like so many others I didn’t talk, I didn’t tell anyone how I felt, and the consequences for me could’ve been so different.
I fully support the Heads Up campaign and the work done by the FA, spearheaded by HRH Duke of Cambridge.
Anyone reading this can reach out to me via twitter or through this fanzine and I promise to be an ear for you to talk to or a shoulder for you to cry on, because it’s ok not to be ok.
Or you can call Samaritans on 116 123
The most important thing you can do is talk, just tell someone, anyone, how you feel, because I promise, there’s people who care.
Through Chelsea, we all have a mutual interest and share a love and passion for something, so we should all be looking out for each other as one Chelsea family.
So next time you hear about mental health, on the news, on the radio or at an FA Cup game, just take a minute.