“It’s important not to keep your feelings bottled up. It really helps to share them with someone” -Lucy Bronze
Looking back from years one would agree to disagree that South Africa and Africa as whole has come a long way when it comes to sports no doubt about that. As a country 10 years back, we managed to host the FIFA world cup and built stadiums successfully, which was the greatest achievement. We’ve managed to produce players who happen to be playing locally and international, but we failed address, educate and raise awareness of anxiety and depression. I’ve decided to touch on this topic as it is close to my heart, because so many players have lost their careers due to anxiety and depression that resorted in them turning to alcohol and substance abuse.
Depression has several meaning attached to it, some define or described it as a mental illness disorder that involves sadness, overthinking and loss of interest. It is an ongoing problem that consists of different phases in which the symptoms last for weeks, months and some can take even years depending on a person. Researchers also suggest that these factors may also be the cause that changes how your brain function.
Soccer is one of the most popular and loved sports that brings people together in Africa if not South Africa, while we busy filling up stadiums, cheering and talking about the best player and which team will win the league, how often do we check up on the mental well-being of soccer players?. Well, according to the study depression is one of the most popular mental illness that most footballers are most likely to be diagnosed with and this is one of the key factors that is hardly spoken about. I believe nothing much is done to educate players and society at large about mental illness. We have seen in recent years through observation there is an increasing number of 52% professional footballers
(athletes) who are struggling with anxiety and depression having been affected by either an injury or other personal matters. In Africa let alone, we are living in a society that is not welleducated about anxiety and depression and this makes it harder for individual footballers to talk about it due to the stigma that is attached to it.
In most cases anxiety and depression can be viewed as something normal in a “black” society due to different cultural background, even though it does not discriminate. We are living in a society that has little knowledge of what anxiety and depression is and that results in elderly people looking at this mental illness as something that is not serious because they don’t understand it. When we have such issues we cannot always blame the team or organisation for not doing much to educate players, players as well should take part in raising awareness
about such initiatives especially those who have recovered from depression.
Footballers are exposed to stress and pressure of always being part of the team. When a player suffers an injury they may experience a sense of loss which in most cases may lead to anxiety and depression. As a continent we cannot always get excited when it comes to sports and forget to address the big elephant that is slowly but surely destroying young people. If we don’t raise awareness and educate society “including soccer players” then it would be pointless to fill up stadiums and turning a blind eye by not supporting footballers who are emotionally and mentally ill.
If one or more footballers succumbed to depression, then this should therefore highlight the importance of education and setting a proper support structure to individuals and the entire team(s). The support structure should be able to assist players on their physical and emotional well-being. It is important for organisations and society at large to begin having these conversation more often, to raise awareness in schools and communities especially elderly. It’s never too late to talk about it nor too late to raise awareness.
As a continent we cannot always get excited when it comes to sports and forget to address the big elephant that is slowly but surely destroying young people. If we don’t raise awareness and educate society “including soccer players” then it would be pointless to fill up stadiums and turning a blind eye by not supporting footballers who are emotionally and mentally ill.
“Soccer isn’t the same as Bach or Buddhism. But it is often more deeply felt than religion, and just as much a part of the community’s fabric, a repository of traditions.” — Franklin Foer
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