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HOW FOOTBALL CAN PLAY A PART IN TACKLING ADDICTION AND MENTAL HEALTH

This article was written by John Gillen, Rehab Clinics Group.

We all know that football can play a massive part in people’s lives. For some people, it is merely a pastime, for others, it’s the one event they look forward to at the end of a busy working week.


Interestingly, it’s also the case that many people enjoy their football with the odd beer. While this isn’t a problem for most, some of us suffer from massive problems when it comes to alcohol addiction - something that can be hard to treat when it’s so closely tied to the sport you love.


Allowing other people to help In the past, I’ve suffered from my fair share of problems when it comes to alcohol addiction.

The year where it finally hit home for me was 2002, I quickly found my life spiralling out of control and decided that enough is enough. This is more commonly known as ‘hitting rock bottom’, but I knew it was time for a change.


Receiving treatment from the NHS for my problems was seen as a wake-up call for me at the time as I was surrounded by others who had also hit rock bottom, this made me look at myself and think this is how society views me now and I need to change that. This led to a determination on finding out what caused my addiction to develop by absorbing as much information as possible on the disease along with evidence-based treatment methods for it.

I didn’t want others to suffer the way I did so I decided that I will use all my research and understanding about addition to help others who are suffering from the disease.


The stereotypical image of football fans is one that makes it very difficult for people to open up about their problems. Even though you can enjoy the game without a drink in your hand, you may find that there are a lot more temptations to relapse that you’d find in day to day life.


What can alcoholism and depression can lead to? It’s a sad fact that most of us will have met somebody or know of somebody that struggles with alcoholism or some other type of addiction. Although times are slowly changing to the point where people are more open about their illness, there is still a lot more that can be done.


We often hear about people who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction in the news but recently we have heard from a lot of people in the football world who have had the same issues. A notable example being Paul Merson.


Paul Merson revealed his battle with depression and just how close he came to taking his own life. Merson did manage to pull himself out of it though, saying “It was only because of the kids really, and my wife, and a little bit of consciousness, that I didn’t. Fear probably as well. I was scared to do it. When you’re in that place, you don’t see how it’s ever going to pass. But I have the tools now. If I get into a real down situation, I know it will pass.”


Another type of addiction that tends to go hand in hand with alcohol abuse and sports is gambling. Unfortunately, it’s easy for sports fans to dip into the gambling world a bit too often. If you already struggle with compulsive behaviour or an addictive personality, then gambling addiction is an easy trap to fall into. This is something that Paul also struggled with.


Now sober for a year, Paul told The Independent how he has struggled with alcohol and gambling addiction which all got too much. With help from the Professional Footballers’ Association and Alcoholics Anonymous, Paul has managed to turn his life back onto the right track and is now helping to raise awareness for anyone struggling with addiction or depression. This brave admission from Paul is very eye-opening for anybody currently struggling with the same issues.


How an open discussion in football can help reduce stigma This open discussion helps to educate people who might not know just how bad things can get. It’s so important for high profile people like this to come forward and let others know that depression and addiction can affect anyone - and that anyone can get help, no matter how hopeless it may feel.


For some people, finding out that our heroes and people we look up to share the same plights as us can help build some solidarity when it comes to recovery. That certainly doesn’t make it an easy thing for anyone to do. It takes a huge amount of bravery to come forward and let the world know about their history of mental health issues and addiction. With football being one of the most popular sports in the United Kingdom, anything that it can be done to raise awareness of these issues will reach a staggering number of people. The powers that be are in a very unique position to help give people the confidence to come forward about their issues - after all, if their idols can do it, so can they.


Campaigns such as the FA’s Heads Up and Take a Minute help raise awareness for mental health issues. This used a minute of time before the match to allow people to not only reflect on their own well-being but also that of those around them. Ending the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health is paramount to people getting the help that they need. If we go back 20 years, the lack of exposure and understanding around mental illness and addiction is startling when compared to now.


Every Little Helps To aid the effort, Rehab Clinics Group will be opening another new centre in Scotland to add to ones located in England and Wales to help pinpoint and tackle some of the problems that people may be struggling with. A free helpline has also been set up for any football fans or players currently struggling with substance abuse, you can read more about it here.


Rehab Clinics Group has many years of experience in helping people overcome different types of addiction through managing CQC approved rehab centres all over the country.

Whether or not you are struggling with drug, alcohol, gambling or any other type of addiction, our centres are fully equipped to help you out.


Through hard work, dedication and education, we aim to help even the most serious cases of addiction turn their lives around.


If you need any further advice on this topic, don’t hesitate to contact us on 0800 470 0382 for free and confidential advice.

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© 2019 by Wanderers Football Club Ltd.

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