The Duke Of Cambridge, the president of the FA, has been actively involved in mental health issues through his ‘Heads Together’ campaign, and is now linking up with football’s governing body to try to reach more people.
The new ‘Heads Up’ campaign aims to use football to help people talk about mental health issues. It will be launched at the Community Shield game in August this year and will run right through, at all levels of football, to the 2020 FA Cup final at Wembley.
The Duke – an Aston Villa fan – said: “As President of The FA I saw an opportunity to bring the sport I love – that many men talk about more than anything else in their lives – to help lead the next phase of the conversation.
“Heads Up will show men that we all have mental health just like we have physical health. Building on the amazing attitude that led England to the World Cup Semi-Finals, it will show us all that mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness.
“There is still a real stigma around mental health issues, which we are slowly breaking down. A lot of men do not even realise they have those issues – so there is an educational thing here.
“Men are not ready to reach out, because they man up.”
FA chief executive Martin Glenn, said: “Mental health remains one of the biggest issues facing men under the age of 45. Around 12 million people play football in England each year, with even more watching, and Heads Up will use the power and popularity of football to drive awareness and change.”
Several prominent footballers, including Tottenham’s Danny Rose, have recently spoken out about their battles with mental health problems, as well as ex-players like Clarke Carlisle and David Cotterill.
“It’s no secret that I’ve been through a testing time at Tottenham this season,” said Rose ahead of England’s World Cup campaign last summer.
“It led to me seeing a psychologist and I was diagnosed with depression, which nobody knows about. I had to get away from Tottenham.
“I’m lucky that England gave me that opportunity to get away, refresh my mind and I’ll always be grateful to them.
“I was on medication for a few months – nobody knows about that apart from my agent – but I’m off the medication now, I’m good again and looking forward to how far we can go in Russia.
“Nobody knows this either, but my uncle [his father’s brother] killed himself in the middle of my rehab [after knee surgery], and that triggered the depression as well.
“Off the field there have been other incidents: back home in August my mum was racially abused in Doncaster.
“She was very angry and upset about it, and then someone came to the house and nearly shot my brother in the face – a gun was fired at my house.
“England has been my salvation and I can’t thank the manager and the medical staff enough. It was really hard, and being referred to a doctor and psychologist by the Spurs club doctor helped me massively to cope.
“I haven’t told my mum or my dad, and they are probably going to be really angry reading this, but I’ve kept it to myself until now.”