The PFA has been addressing issues of emotional well-being and addiction for over 14 years, and the PFA Charity provides a 24/7/365 counselling telephone helpline service available to all players.

In addition to the helpline, players past and present can access a national network of  over 100 fully-trained counsellors, all of whom understand the emotional roller-coaster that involvement in professional sport can entail.

The PFA Charity continues to offer support and funding to the Sporting Chance Clinic, allowing players to receive residential treatment.

The combination of these services offers current and former players a dedicated team of people and a safe and confidential environment to receive support and counselling.

Clarke Carlisle, former PFA Chairman, writes...

On the 10 November 2009, German goalkeeper Robert Enke took his own life. He had been depressed since the death of his two-year-old daughter Lara who died of a rare heart condition in 2006. Enke’s death at the age of just 32 illustrates the most extreme example of how mental health issues can affect an individual, to the point they take their own life.

But talking about mental health problems has traditionally been one of sport’s great taboos. When boxer Frank Bruno was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, the tabloid press ran the headline ‘Bonkers Bruno locked up’. Unsurprisingly, given this attitude it is very rare for sports men and women to ‘come out’ about mental ill health voluntarily.  It is sadly far more common that any vulnerability is ‘outed’ by the sports media.

Good mental health is vital for peak performance in sport. Mental health problems affect one in six of the population at any one time. Depression alone affects up to half of us during our lifetimes and affects every family at some stage. Despite this, many people are unaware of the symptoms of mental health problems.

Unsurprisingly, players known for physical fitness rarely talk about mental distress. Indeed many may not recognise what it is or know how to seek help for stress, anxiety or depression when it strikes.

The Sporting Chance Clinic, founded by Tony Adams, the former England captain who has written and talked about his own struggle with mental ill health and alcohol dependency - was set up to support sports men and women who experience similar problems and need professional help to overcome them.

Football is the beautiful game but it is also a tough game that makes huge demands on its players, it is important to remember that professional players are human beings not machines.

Facts about Depression

Every year one person in ten will experience depression or anxiety disorder. This often follows trauma or upset and is more likely with stress.

  • Depression can affect anyone at any age and at any time.
  • Depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide affecting about 151million people at any one time*
  • 21.5% of women and 13.6% of are experiencing depression or anxiety disorder at any one time **
  • Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain affecting 11.8% of women and 7.6% of men at any one time.
  • Most people will recover from depression with the right support and/or treatment
  • Getting help early can prevent depression getting worse.

* (Reference us WHO (2008) The global burden of disease 2004 update).

** (McManus S, Meltzer H, Brugha T et al (2009) Adult Psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007. Results of a household survey. Health and Social Information Centre, Social Care Statistics).

What you might feel if you are depressed ...

Depression is different from feeling down or sad. Depressed people can feel anxious, hopeless, negative and helpless and the feeling doesn’t pass.

  • Depression can happen suddenly as a result of physical illness, unemployment, bereavement, family problems or other life changing events.
  • Half of the people who have depression will only experience it once but for the other half it will happen again. The length of time that it takes to recover ranges from a few months to a year or more.
  • Living with depression is difficult for those who experience it and for their family, friends and colleagues.
  • It is sometimes difficult to recognise depression and to know what to do about it.

What are the signs of depression?

Depression shows up in many different ways. You don’t always realise what’s going on because your problems seem to be physical, not mental. You might tell yourself you are simply under the weather or feeling tired.Key Symptoms of Depression Include:

  • Persistent sadness or low mood and/or
  • loss of interest or pleasure, and
  • fatigue or low energy.

Other Symptoms Include:

  • Waking up early, having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more
  • poor or increased appetite
  • difficulty remembering things, poor concentration or indecisiveness
  • blaming yourself or feeling guilty about things
  • feeling low-spirited for much of the time, every day
  • lacking self-confidence and self-esteem
  • being preoccupied with negative thoughts, and
  • self harm or thoughts of suicide.

Note: All symptoms listed above are taken from ICD10 used by clinicians to diagnose depression