Former Canaries star urges men to open up about mental health issues
'It is not a sign of weakness to admit to having a mental health problem.'
That was the message delivered by patients, campaigners and health workers today during a seminar aimed at breaking down some of the stigma surrounding MENtal health and to challenge the negative attitude men attach to the subject.
Dozens of people attended the seminar at Norwich City Football Club, arranged by Time to Change, which is fighting to change attitudes to mental health across the country.
The charity says that one in four people suffer from some form of mental health problem, which can affect all walks of life from sports stars and celebrities to students, labourers and office workers.
Campaigners, including former Norwich City footballer Darren Eadie, shared their stories and came up with new ideas to smash the stigma and discuss why men struggle to talk about common complaints like stress, anxiety and depression.
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Mr Eadie, who suffered from depression following the end of his football career, said it had been hugely helpful to talk about his experiences. He added that men should not be afraid of talking about mental health problems because they were not alone.
'There is so much that can be done like more forums like this and getting people talking. It is difficult to talk about, but a problem shared is a problem halved. People associate mental health as someone locked up and it could be anxiety and panic attacks and you can get help with that,' he said.
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Mr Eadie added that football clubs could do a lot more to help the mental health of their players from when they are a young age.
Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP and care minister, said attitudes to mental health were changing with the subject more in the media and celebrities talking about their issues.
'It is so important that we get it out into the open and talk about it. Mental health does not get the attention it deserves and there is an institutional bias against mental health in the NHS.'
'For men, it is the fear of the consequences of telling their employer. If you are a footballer, you do not know if another club will go for you and it is the same if you are an accountant or a shop worker. Mental health is like any other illness and you can recover and there is a route to recovery,' he said.
Sue Baker, director of the national Time to Change campaign, which has been running for seven years, said it had been an 'emotional' seminar listening to people's stories. She added that they wanted men to talk about their anxieties before they got to the point of crisis.
'It does seem to be that men find it hard to talk about mental health and we know they are less likely to access support. There is a very big stigma, but we are seeing more people in the public eye talking about mental health,' she said.
Will Randle, 22, from Great Yarmouth who has made a short film with ex-Canaries player and France midfielder Cedric Anselin about their shared experiences around football and mental health, added that there needed to be better signposting for mental health services and more support for young people making the transition to adult services.
Time for Change is also hosting a public event outside the Forum in Norwich on April 5 from 10am to 4.30pm – including a mock stadium where a public 'keepy-uppy' competition will be held alongside family entertainment, including football-themed street theatre.
For more information go to www.time-to-change.org.uk