We were so moved by an e-mail from the Mailbox hero thayden that we published it separately here.
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Tell your children that even footballers can suffer
This is not a football letter. I am delighted that Aaron Lennon has been publicly ‘outed’ as having a mental illness. I am delighted for many reasons.
Firstly, and most importantly, for himself. It often seems to be the case that the longer these things fester internally, the more destructive the inevitable response. To be found wandering around near a motorway is a far cry from where this could have ended up.
Second, for the children in my care. I am a teacher and as part of my role I am a Head of Year in a school where the children are, overwhelmingly, well-off, well-educated and will achieve very highly. Mental wellbeing is a topic we try to address head on, and as our school counsellor would attest, the stream of young people dropping in on her or making appointments is doing anything but dwindle. But that is not a bad thing.
It makes me wonder how many teenagers and young adults have gone through our system beforehand without finding a simple outlet like talking to someone. Still nowadays, these young, intelligent people often respond to the suggestion of a counsellor with “I’m not mental, I’m not depressed” as if the merest thought was an insult. The more they see of public figures dealing with their issues, the better for all of them. The only positive of his salary being banded about by that disgraceful news outlet, is that it showed my kids, and kids like them, that wealth means nothing. You can buy almost anything in my part of the world, but not your health.
Children nowadays toe the line between hard work (pressure) and overburden (‘stress’). To paraphrase Jeb Bartlet: “I don’t like the word stress, it is something that can be cured with flavoured coffee and bath bubbles.” This may have more than an element of truth to it in some cases, where that line between pressure and genuine stress is increasingly blurred for children.
But what today has done is show a whole generation of young people, that their education, their background and their financial status doesn’t mean they can’t be depressed or suffer from mental health issues. And, most importantly, the love and support shown toward him by 98% of the public, has shown them that all of that stuff doesn’t matter to people when you do disclose your problem.
Teacher and LFC supporter in a British School in the UAE
Thank you Thayden
So, Thayden just articulated many of the thoughts in my stupid irrational head, in a more coherent way than I ever could. Feel free to pass on my thanks for his writing.
Also, as someone who knows all too well what mental health issues can do to you, I just wanted to thank you guys for publishing it as a standalone article.
That’s all – just a big metaphorical hug really.
Keep up the stellar work.
More poignant mails from fellow sufferers
I have just written a very long email to you regarding my own battle with depression, in light of the very sad news about Aaron Lennon (get well soon and keep your head up!!) and after reading the published article by thayden, but after realising it was about four pages long I consigned it to the drafts box.
However, I will now sit down with my girlfriend later on this evening and try my hardest to explain how I’m feeling at this moment in time.
I suffered from very bad depression five or so years ago to the point I was one screw cap and a guzzle of pills away from ending it all. I had months and months of counselling which lead to me beating my depression and I have subsequently strode confidently through the last five years making the best of all situations.
However, I know there is something in me that has changed for the worse and I have been silently dwelling on it for a few weeks, not wanting to acknowledge that it is probably (most definitely) a slightly different manifestation of my depression.
I do not want to go back to counselling, nor do I want to worry my girlfriend with my troubles, but I know from my previous encounter with depression that once you start talking to your loved ones or your friends about it they are surprisingly supportive and open to helping.
So, I would encourage anyone (and I include myself in this) who is feeling down or struggling to cope to open up, speak to someone, be it a friend, relative or one of the many supportive counsellors out there, don’t hold it all in and let it drag you down because, while there is still a stigma attached to mental health, your life and wellbeing means more to this world and the people that love you than you could ever really appreciate and once you dig deep for the courage to open up you’ll find that, on a personal level, people are very supportive and loving.
Just wanted to add a little thank you to the people of the mailbox (who I read everyday) for being my friends without ever realising it, and for the writers at F365 for not being afraid of tackling sensitive issues head on and for making me think, laugh and genuinely enjoy football even though I don’t really like it as much as I used to when I was younger.
Please, please, please dig deep for the courage to open up and talk about your problems!!!!
Deano (this feels like it’s probably four pages long, but it felt good to get it out in the open) Didcot
…I’m so angry, I’m not sure how I’ll put it into words, but I’ll try. As someone who works in mental health, sees the daily struggle people go through, the indiscriminate way with which it falls into people’s lives, the way in which it can turn the most stable life into someone’s own personal hell, I can’t quite understand how two national newspapers could report the Aaron Lennon events in the disgraceful way highlighted in today’s Mediawatch.
Of course I shouldn’t be surprised, they do it with anything and everything, there is seemingly no depths to which a couple of them will not sink, but I guess I’d hoped we’d gotten past this. As Mediawatch alluded to, we know exactly what the Mail and Mirror’s angle is here, generate anger, turn the public against someone for the sake of a few clicks, without showing the slightest bit of concern for anyone either involved in this particular situation, or even the wider impact on those with mental health difficulties themselves.
Suicide is the biggest killer of males under 50 in this country, over a quarter of deaths in males between 20 and 34 is due to suicide. That is staggering. A huge reason for this is the stigma attached to mental health, people aren’t reaching out when they need to, because they don’t want to have to admit they have a problem. Some people finally do, when it has already cost them so much in their life, and some never do, which can have even worse consequences. The Mail and Mirror are surely aware of how their words today impact stigma, but ran with it anyway.
So when a national newspaper shows such disregard for their actions, and people get riled and post in comments sections, reply to tweets, chat to their mates down the pub regurgitating such uniformed and frankly dangerous lines such as ‘What’s he got to be depressed about?’, someone is affected. It might be the friend on Facebook who sees their mate’s comment, or the guy sat having a beer wishing he could open up to the lads but never will about why he can’t face another day like this, but it will undoubtedly have an impact.
Mental health is moving forward, there are some great things happening, some really positive voices speaking out. However, every article like this moves it back several steps for the lives of some, and that is utterly tragic.
I’ll sign off this email by saying I’ve had plenty of mental health issues myself, and I need not be afraid to admit that. And thankfully I know F365 is a place that does so much to challenge the bullshit we have to endure from the national press that many here will already be aware that the attitudes of these papers and subsequent public reaction isn’t reflective of wider society. But if anyone reading this is struggling, please reach out, there are so many great services doing great work, your GPs should have plenty of information, otherwise there are places such as Mind, Rethink and local IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) services. Nobody should have to tackle such things on their own.
…As a long time reader this, like I’m sure many others, I’d the first time I’ve been compelled to write in. And I mean compelled.
As well as a long-time reader I’m also a long-time sufferer of mental illness. I’m sure you’ll get many people who say the same. Firstly I would like to applaud F365 for your (entirely typical but still heartening) views on the coverage of the desperately sad news about the man Aaron Lennon. Not the footballer. Like all right thinking people I join the chorus of those who wish the human being well. And join those who utterly f***ing condemn the hideous and hurtful bullshit spouted by the most subterranean gutter press.
I’m relatively successful; married, good job and loving family. So have been subsumed with guilt about not deserving to feel so low and it makes it the worse. So the narrative some vile sections of the media create – how dare he be desolate, he’s so rich – I know how damaging that can be.
Not sure what this mail is meant to say other than thank you for being a responsible media outlet. Your compassion is consistent and consistently against the flow of a judgemental culture. And most of all, I hope for Aaron Lennon (the person – remember that) to find some solace and security, along with all else who suffer from this hideous illness.
Stu Curry (name not withheld as we need to talk about this, but Christ I know why some people retain the right not to share their name)
Thoughts are with Aaron’s family
Never mind the teammates, fans of his current and former clubs, my heart really goes out to Aaron Lennon’s family.
Over the next 28 days they will have to contend with an individual that they recognise only by appearance. The poor guy has a lengthy recovery period ahead of him and during this time his family will feel, for what will hopefully be as short a time as possible, that they’ve lost the Aaron they know and love.
Given time, he will come back to them but for now that poor family will be going through hell.
As other have said, more eloquently than me, football needs to get hold of this issue. As addiction often deals with the associated mental issues, Sporting Chance does sterling work but this really needs a dedicated, properly resourced service so that these issues can be picked up as early as possible and players can be given the appropriate help.
Hope to see you back in the game as soon as possible Aaron but more importantly back to being you.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
A tale of meeting Aaron Lennon…
Down the years I’ve bumped into a good many professional footballers current and ex. I used to be a good deal more match-going than now and you’d always get a chance to chat with players when they’re boarding the coach if you went away. Then for a time I’d often be in the Blue Bar in the Albert Dock and there’d always be a spice boy or two knocking about. Most have been, to me and at that time, perfectly accommodating. Happy to chat and tolerant of my occasionally giddy like questioning. Especially the few times I bumped into God after he’d saved our bacon doing what he did best – scoring outrageous goals that afternoon. But then again I’ve seen some very frosty exchanges (likely to do with timing and location) and some players would appear to be A-grade weapons, pure and simple, and these ones I tended to avoid for both our sakes.
Anyway, unrelated to this but a few years ago yours truly was on the MOTD intro reel. It’s a long story but if you pause it for a milisecond you can just about make me out in the fans jumping about in a bar watching the game and eating pizza on the sofa watching the game too. It involved me going trekking along to West London (awful overhyped place, makes Liverpool look affluent) and some industrial lot in the fag end of Park Royal. After meeting the Chelsea mascot (sound guy despite his affiliation to that hateful mob) I was kicking my heels and in walked Arsenal’s RVP. He was okay, probably a bit spooked as to why any male should want to strike up conversation whilst half-clothed. The day involved much sitting around in the changing rooms, it was hot and boring but the Chelsea mascot, RVP and I had what might pass as reasonable chat given I’m a miserable sod at heart.
That all changed when Spurs’ Aaron Lennon walked in. Proper breath of fresh air. Really chatty. He was there with what I imagined was a local childhood mate based on the accents. Funny guy. Quick to what is what the kids call #Bantz these days. He couldn’t get over fact there was a bin full of boots and balls and what not and he could take what he wanted. Properly grounded, good fun. I am not for one moment suggesting happy-go-lucky people cannot suffer mental health problems, more that in the brief time I spent with him that day I could see he was a good soul. And I hope he bests or is able to repress his demons soon!
All the best, Aaron.
Gregory Whitehead, LFC
Praise for Mediawatch
I’m sure it’s one of a bajillion you’ll get this afternoon, but Mediawatch today was by far the best you’ve ever done. Thank you and f**k you the Daily Mirror and double f**k you the Daily Mail (just because it’s the Daily Mail).
Michael, also a human being
…I wrote into this morning’s mailbox to wish Aaron Lennon well, but I’m compelled to write in once more to not only applaud Mediawatch’s comments on mental illness not caring about what you are or what you do, but to also give you a standing ovation for calling the Daily Mail out on that f**king “article” today.
Journalism? F*** right off.
…and just for fairness sake, the Daily Mirror can do one too.
Well done Mediawatch, well done.
Jon 3:16, CBT therapist
…You’re more than a football site. You’re a moral guide for how people should conduct themselves and you offer hope that there is still news sites out there that aren’t here to stir up shit. Thanks.
Jose would be Pulis of European Super League
I don’t know if your output has increased tenfold, or I’m now a responsible working adult…but I struggle to keep up these days. Anyway my point is I was only catching up late last night on the Manchester derby and Mourinho’s anti football. Then this thought crossed my mind – imagine the elite teams from the biggest European leagues did break away and formed a European Super League. Mourinho would park the bus in every single game, officially making him the Pulis/Allardyce of said league.
He wouldn’t have the biggest budget or the best players and would play such disgusting, drab and dreary football that he would soon be kicked out and out of a job. Simply no one would stand for his anti-football in such an elite league. He would be mid table at best. His team would equate to Stoke or WBA.
My point being – if you did give Tony Pulis over a billion pounds over his whole career, I’m sure he would have won a few pots and probably done it in a more dignified manner. I think this is what grinds most British managers that they don’t get the chance and money that the likes of Mourinho and co get. This is what forced Big Sam to come out with the Allardici quote.
There is some substance to this. They see Jose’s tactics and see many similarities with themselves. British managers don’t help themselves though, and seem extremely paranoid and xenophobic that you yourselves quite often allude to. They are not actually that bad in reality, and I’m sure if they expanded their horizons, learned new languages, cultures and sampled other leagues they would stand a better chance of landing the top jobs they so crave. Instead they throw their toys out of the pram and complain everything is unfair. I would counter that by saying giving Tim Sherwood the Spurs and Villa job with no experience is unfair.
Drifting off piste here, but deep down we do all want to see British coaches succeed at the highest level. Football365 themselves have interviewed young coaches coaching abroad, something I must congratulate you on for giving them a platform. The problem also lies with the FA, who let’s face it are filthy rich, yet insist on charging us ridiculous sums for coaching badges. All you have to do is look at how many qualified coaches Spain, Germany, France and Holland have compared to ourselves. You will see a correlation.
Ben (Started off with Jose, ended off with the state of coaching in this country…twas ever thus) Howarth
On an appalling situation in Italy
I feel the need to express my outrage against the treatment of Sulley Mutari by the Serie A. He walked off the field (and rightly so!!!) after he was booked for dissent against inbred imbeciles in crowd who hurled racial abuses at him. And in response to his righteous protest, HE has now been suspended. What an absolute load of horseshit from the Italian FA who are now clearly complicit in racism. If the other countries in UEFA have any moral standards whatsoever, they should refuse to play Italian teams in any UEFA competitions until the suspension is lifted and the actual wrongdoers are punished. This episode has my blood boiling.
…I was surprised to see no mails on the Sulley Muntari situation, because we are all left wing liberal snow flakes who will take any chance we can to be outraged (or something along those lines according to fat man scouse). After reading the Italian FA’s reasons to allow the card to stand I am shocked. “There was only ten or so fans, less than 1% of fans in attendance.” OK then, that makes racist abuse fine?
Muntari raised a point himself and said the referee should have done something and he is right. If there was only ten people then why couldn’t the referee ask the stewards to remove said fans. The FA have clearly spoken to him to get this information so the referee bottled it. This isn’t having a go at Italian refs either, I don’t think any ref anywhere would have done this. Knowing that the fans who have been removed and given life bans (as the punishment for any fan being racist should be) will know where you are on any given Saturday would be terrifying, but like I said it was a perfect chance to let racists know they will not be tolerated, whether it is one person in a hundred, or a whole stadium full. Hopefully though Fifpro will intervene on Muntari’s behalf and the ban will be rescinded.
Bernard (it’s much easier to be outraged online than it is to someone’s face) MUFC
It’s a day I have been fearing for a while now. Every since the wonderful days of Football Italia (imagine it, free to air football every Sunday of the best league in Europe) he has been a colossus of playing football and being damn sexy about it. Francesco Totti is retiring. His dedication to Roma and the frankly disgusting things he can do with a football spoke to us all. In the later years, when he (eventually) accepted a reduced role to match his waning powers, it seemed to have the inverse effect of distilling his filthy skills in 20 minute masterclasses.
Yes, he could have won more elsewhere but you always knew that it would not mean enough for him with anyone else other than Roma. He is the type of player that every dreamer/terrible footballer thinks they would play like if they could. Ciao Francesco. Grazia.
Kev (also, great work on the Aaron Lennon stuff)
On relegation and triumph
Lovely stuff from Peter G as always. I thought I would comment on that article from the perspectives as a Leicester fan – a club more traditionally involved in relegation/promotion than most.
Having spent 48 seasons in the top division and 62 in the second in our history we are one of those who define the ‘yo-yo club’ moniker. We have been promoted 12 times (seven times as champions of the second division) and relegated 12 times too. There were some glorious days (notably winning the play-offs twice in the 90s) and some devastating lows, but I think from the prism of a Leicester fan’s perspective, yo-yo-ing between the top two divisions is just what we do. It is what has always happened in all our 100+ years involvement in the league system and so any promotion or relegation between the top two divisions is seen as business as usual. We know we can get back up again if relegated, and promotion to the promised land is wonderful and we will enjoy it while it lasts.
The two extremes of emotion, for me at least, is when we find ourselves outside of that cosy armchair of our existence – namely relegation to League 1 in 2008 and winning that Premier League trophy thingy last season. The stress of both situations was ramped up to the max. For the relegation for League 1, it was the sheer humiliation of going down well below our station and destroying a proud record of having never been relegated to the third tier. For the title race, well, the stress was much different, but as it became ever more possible, the emotions were much more concentrated mostly because we knew this opportunity was highly unlikely to ever happen again in our lifetime so we needed to take it while we could.
So, yep, relegation is a devastating blow no matter who you are, and I am so glad we are safe (almost) this year now. But when you reach those extremes of your usual existence, that is when it becomes that much more of a blow to the morale of the club. As such, it would be interesting to know who would feel more upset by relegation given the situation this season – Sunderland, who surely have the resources and fan-base to get back within a couple of seasons, despite the chaotic mess they are in currently, or Swansea/Hull, who are not traditional top-flight candidates, may struggle to mount a promotion campaign and may fear ‘doing a Wigan/Bolton’ after several years enjoying the delights of the Premier League garden.
Having said such incendiary things in the last paragraph I say good luck Swansea, Hull and Boro!
Rob (I hope I ain’t tempting fate by declaring us ‘safe’), Leicester
Fan of a title-challenge side writes…
Peter Goldstein tells us that it ‘makes no sense’ that the media focuses more attention on who will win the Premiership than it does on who will get relegated.
I think Peter fundamentally misunderstands the whole point of sport.
Why were Atletico gung-ho?
First off…what a blistering performance from Real last night. From the normally suspect Navas to substitute Usain Bolt, sorry, Nacho, Real were the dominate side, and fully justified their victory. Ronaldo will naturally get the plaudits, but the Luca Modric’s display was a thing of beauty. If I was in the stadium, I would have just player-cam’d him for the 90 minutes. Glorious.
I was very surprised with Simone, for normally such a calculated and cautious manager, he was very gung–ho and throwing caution to the wind in search of that ‘precious away goal’ when 2-0 down. This cavalier approach resulted in the 3rd goal for Real, effectively ending the tie as a contest. A return leg, 2-0 in the Calderon, would’ve had a glimmer of hope…but 3-0 down? Atleti are looking for a miracle. Let’s hope Cholo has something hidden up those dark sleeves of his.
Darragh (Anyone else peeved with the ‘lower case ‘i’s’ on the Real name templates?), Dublin
The problem with a smaller penalty box
I like the email on the smaller penalty box and I agree with a lot of its points. However wouldn’t this smaller box negatively impact keepers? It would limit their ability to charge out and make saves and also in claiming/punching crosses?
Having a keeper pinned in a smaller area would create a lot more uncertainty among defences so long balls would become more prevalent. The evolution of the goalkeeper into a sweeper and a ball player has been the foundation of some great teams in the last twenty years. I would hate for the game to lose this.
Dembele of the week is getting like Leo’s Oscar
Personally I’m outraged that Mousa is being constantly overlooked for Dembele of the week. Moussa and Ousamane are playing in the easy leagues and Daniel Storey says Mousa is the second best midfielder in the country yet every week I see an even more obscure Dembele winning the award. Aliou at Niort has has two! So has Sirmana for assistant coaching. It’s like you’re not even taking it seriously.
At least at 30 he has a couple of seasons left to pick up the award and the recognition he deserves (obviously it’s a feature I’m sure you plan to keep up).