Former Norwich City star Cedric Anselin’s honesty over mental illness shows it’s good to talk
- Credit: Archant © 2005
Do you remember the 'it's good to talk' advert that was first aired in 1995? It featured the late Bob Hoskins, reminding people of the benefits of a good chinwag.
The advert creators could not have foreseen what was to come: a new generation of people communicating via their phones, tablets and even games consoles. It's good to avoid talking at any cost.
Twenty-one years on, there remains a great deal of wisdom in the 'it's good to talk' catchphrase – and not simply to help BT's profits.
Talking can be cathartic, uplifting, enlightening, amusing, challenging and intense. It builds friendships and relationships. It adds depth to our personality. And – above all – it can be therapeutic.
Last week, I interviewed the former Norwich City midfielder Cedric Anselin.
During an emotional hour of forthright honesty, Cedric talked about a 14-year secret – his struggle with anxiety and depression.
For many reasons, it was a challenging interview.
It was hard to hear a genuinely lovely man recounting the pain that he and his loved ones had endured.
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It was also difficult on another level, as Cedric's story was so similar to mine in recent years.
But that shared experience created an environment for openness and a genuine connection.
Go back even a decade and this scenario would have been almost unthinkable: two football-loving blokes sitting down to talk about – whisper it – their feelings.
For my generation growing up, feelings was the f-word. Football was a 'man's game', blokes were expected to 'man up' when things got tough.
But the truth is that a real man doesn't man up. A real man knows that talking, emotion and honesty are essential.
It actually takes more courage to share your weaknesses than it does to suppress them.
When Cedric let his secret out at last, it was hugely courageous and also the beginning of a healing process.
I know that and I practise it.
My mental illness has been out in the open for a few years. I talk about it with the same frankness that I do when talking about a knee operation that I had.
I do not care who knows that I am on heavy medication and that I spent three months in a mental hospital last year. It's all part of what makes me, me – a troubled genius, of course.
And the vast majority of people do not care either. Well, they care in a nice way, but they are not unsettled by the news.
For Cedric Anselin, I hope his courage in admitting the truth is the first step on the path to recovery.
And thank goodness that when he was at crisis point, he reached for the phone to talk to someone - Clarke Carlisle, a former footballer who knows what mental illness is all about.
If actions sometimes speak louder than words, this is an example of words speaking louder than actions.
If Cedric's story turns out to be one of a man's emergence from the Hell of mental illness and into a more settled place, that will be a wonderful story indeed.
But it will be even better if – as Cedric hopes – his decision to talk about his illness encourages other people, particularly men, to do the same.
Suicide levels are highest among younger men. And too often they take their own lives having rarely if ever talked to someone about their pain.
That breaks my heart.
So I add my voice to that of Cedric Anselin by saying to people who are in a dark place that it really is good to talk.
And to those who are chosen to hear someone's pain, please listen, care and affirm them.