‘I’ve got a duty to help people’: Ex-Norwich City player Cedric Anselin on his mission to use his mental illness to help others
- Credit: Archant � 2005
Do you remember the 'It's Good to Talk' BT advert with Bob Hoskins in the 1990s?
Former Norwich City footballer Cedric Anselin probably doesn't. But he would certainly agree with the sentiment.
In fact, Cedric would take it further, saying: 'It's absolutely essential to talk.'
For, three months after speaking to this newspaper to reveal his 14-year battle with anxiety and depression, he has opened his heart again to tell how the decision to go public has transformed his life.
The 39-year-old, who played for the Canaries between 1998-2001 and previously won a Uefa Cup runners-up medal with Bordeaux, has been signed up as a mental health ambassador and is doing everything he can to share the message that being open is crucial when you have a mental health issue.
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He said: 'The article opened so many doors for me. I've turned it into a positive.
'Before, I was so scared about talking. Now it's a normal conversation for me. The moment you speak about it, it's a massive weight off your shoulders. 'It's so important to be open.'
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In a few short months, Cedric has:
? Become a mental health ambassador for Norfolk County Council, promoting the awareness of mental illness in schools and at football clubs
? Had his story published in magazines and booklets and told on TV
? Become a mental health ambassador for the Football Association
? Signed up for charity football matches, including a forthcoming tournament in Liverpool.
Along with those things, he will be:
? On March 7, attending a Football Therapy for Mental Wellbeing presentation at the House of Commons, where ex-pro Stan Collymore is a speaker
? On March 17, opening a playground for disabled children in Lowestoft
? Featuring in an article for his former club Bordeaux
? Doing a skydive in April.
The midfielder's troubled past featured a secret battle with depression that cost him his marriage and diminished and haunted him for 14 years.
It almost had a tragic end when he planned a suicide bid last autumn. It was thankfully averted when he contacted former footballer Clarke Carlisle, who helped him to change his mind.
The turning point came when he was talking to a specialist at Hellesdon Hospital and she asked him whether he had considered telling his story as a form of therapy and in order to help others.
He took her advice and is now on a mission to use his experience and profile to help others - particularly younger men, who are at the highest risk of suicide. Footballers are prominent in that group.
He said: 'Footballers are macho but deep down they're fragile - in that, it becomes dangerous. They don't want the public and fans to think they are weak. I was like that.
'But I tell people that they must not be afraid to talk to someone.'
Cedric, from Spixworth, has two sons. He lives alone, but sees them regularly and said he had a very good relationship with them and his ex-wife.
He works at Open Academy in Norwich, guiding 30 16- to 18-year-olds through BTec level three sports and fitness. He also plays for Sheringham FC.
Though he acknowledged that it was different for other people and that mental illness 'never really goes away', he outlined some of the things that were helping him to feel stronger and more positive.
'You need to surround yourself with positive people. I have to have a very close network of friends and a positive vibe. Also, you must see your GP. Some people are still scared and think 'mental health is about crazy people'. But it is not.'
He added: 'I feel strongly about this: it's so close to my heart. I've got a duty to help people. As a high-profile person in Norfolk I can't let people down.
'This part of me will always be with me. We are all here to help each other.'
He told how he had already been contacted by numerous people since he told of his mental illness. He said: 'I had a Norwich City fan who was in a bad place and texted me to say: 'You've inspired me'. That makes me feel so good.
'I'm using a negative and making it a positive and I'm really happy and upbeat. I'm looking forward. Every day is a baby step but the future is bright.'
? If you need to talk to someone about issues raised by this article, call the Samaritans on 116 123.