Campaign for compulsory Mental Health First Aid & in-house counselling for Footballers

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Campaign for compulsory Mental Health First Aid & in-house counselling for Footballers

This petition had 38 supporters

Executive summary

  • 89 Professional Footballers have taken their own lives so far.
  • Through my research, the average age of a Footballer taking their own life in the UK is 37.
  • Many of the players as of to date are approaching the end of their career of this age or there about.
  • Professional Footballers/Managers etc. are wanting more support!
  • Professional Footballers/Managers/ Coaches/ Agents/Scouts agree that Mental Health First Aid is the best way forward!
  • The Football Association needs to make Mental Health First Aid compulsory and listen to what the players are saying!

I am not doing this for any other reason than to provide support to our players etc. Over the past 5 years, I have taken the time to listen to what players want and need. I have questioned and surveyed these players extensively.

Those involved in Football all levels need to understand the importance of Mental Health and what Mental Health is.

Mental health issues can be harder to spot than a physical injury, but how much support the sufferer receives can make a big difference to their recovery. Making Mental Health First Aid compulsory will give coaches and others working with sportspeople knowledge of what they should be looking out for and details the practical support and help available. Club leaders and coaches are at the heart of their communities, able to influence and promote positive mental health. Mental Health First Aid gives them the tools to do that.

Including a 3-hour Mental Health First Aid module to the FA Level 1 Coaching Course Syllabus is more than worth it, even if it prevents one further suicide! Money cannot buy lives back, and so this, we cannot put a price on!

The reason for the petition

FAMH, Is an organisation supporting current and ex Footballers who have or is experiencing Mental Health issues. The aim of FAMH is to promote positive mental health in Sport – and Football in particular. Mental health issues can be harder to spot than a physical injury, but how much support the sufferer receives can make a big difference to their recovery.

Making Mental Health First Aid Lite compulsory will give Coaches and others working with Footballers knowledge of what they should be looking out for and details the practical support and help available. Club leaders and Coaches are at the heart of their communities, and so are able to influence and promote positive Mental Health. Mental Health First Aid Lite gives them the tools to do that.

I am campaigning to make Mental Health First Aid Lite training compulsory within Football clubs to prevent situations like Gary Speed, from happening in the future. I have so much support from Professional Footballers on this matter. As coaches are at the heart of the club, they have constant contact with players and therefore are the best person to take these courses.

The reason I bid to make the above compulsory is because, as an ex Footballer myself, I lost my own career at an early age. It sent me into a massive spiral of depression so severely, I was self harming, drinking, taking over doses and planning my own death. So I understand and know exactly what a lot of players are going through. Training Football Coaches in Mental Health First Aid Lite means they are able to spot early signs of mental illnesses such as depression. This could then prevent any further suicides in Football. At the moment, I have found 81 Footballers who have taken their own life, there cannot be any more.

Having spoken to many players on this matter and carrying out a survey as to whether players would feel more comfortable approaching an Addiction Clinic such as Sporting Chance OR speaking to a Mental Health First Aid trained coach/In-House counsellor, 98% of the players said they would prefer to speak to someone within the club. 2% said they would approach a clinic. Though 1 out of the 2 said they would speak to someone who is Mental Health First Aid trained as well.

What is Mental Health First Aid?

MHFA came to England in 2007 and was developed and launched under the Department of Health: National Institute of Mental Health in England (NIMHE) as part of a national approach to improving public mental health Jorm, et al (2005), have found several benefits from Mental Health First Aid training. The course improved the ability to recognize a mental disorder in a vignette, changed beliefs about treatment to be more like those of health professionals, decreased social distance (stigmatizing attitudes), and increased confidence in providing help to someone with a mental health problem. Practitioners are also required to have a basic understanding of mental health issues and how to deal with them, and should be best practice to use the skills in the workplace.

The long-term outcomes of the training are not currently detailed in the published data for practitioners and most studies such as Brandling, & McKenna,. (2010) only looked at post three weeks after the training and Jorm, et al (2005) gained responses after 6 months, although one further study assessed the application of knowledge to practice more than a year after training (Jorm, Kitchener, Mugford, 2005). The cost to England according to Sainsbury Centre for mental health (2010) for mental health illness was 105.2 billion and so the need for higher level of mental health literacy is increased in order to prevent this from becoming a burden on the ever-increasing economic downturn. Jorm, et al (2005 describes the issues with mental health literacy as many members of the public cannot recognise specific disorders or different types of psychological distress. They differ from mental health experts in their beliefs about the causes of mental disorders and the most effective treatments.

Attitudes which hinder recognition and appropriate help seeking are common. Much of the mental health information most readily available to the public is misleading. However, there is some evidence that mental health literacy can be improved.

More research is required to develop a better understanding of the practical application of MHFA skills to help people with mental health problems (Lam 2010, Sartore 2008, Kitchener 2002). Current literature provides a good evidence base to support the following course aims and outcomes:

• that it raises awareness of mental health issues in the community
• that it reduces stigma and discrimination
• that it teaches participants to recognise distress
• that it teaches participants to recognise the difference between Therapy and First Aid​

MHFA Lite is a 3-hour introductory mental health awareness course that can be delivered to up to 25 people at any one session. Because of its short duration it is not meant as a substitute for the full MHFA course (these are around 12 hours long). The aims and objectives of the course include: Enabling participants to:

Gain a wider understanding, for themselves and others, of some issues surrounding mental health
Gain a greater understanding of how and why positive and negative mental health affects business
Work more effectively with people experiencing mental health problems

By the end of the course participants will be able to:

Identify the discrimination surrounding mental health problems
Define mental health & some mental health problems
Relate to people's experiences
Help support people with mental health problems
Begin developing a business case for promoting positive mental health in the workplace
Look after their own mental health 

The course also introduces ALGEE - a unique memory tool for conducting mental health first aid. Participants will receive a certificate of attendance and a manual with further information and resources.

Why Mental Health First Aid is so important within Football

For you to consider my proposal in a positive light and to look at implementing Mental Health First Aid Lite, it would be an important step in terms of tackling the stigma attached to such conditions whilst also encouraging those affected to come forward and obtain support. I would suggest that in terms of reducing suicides within the football community and in general, addressing mental ill health, it is vital that support services be configured in such a way that they are highly accessible and responsive – we know from those organisations such as MIND and Anxiety UK, of providing services to those living with anxiety and depression that no two individuals are the same in terms of their needs and therefore a tailored and bespoke approach is often essential. Similarly, because sadly there is still a stigma attached to any form of Mental health condition, it is the case that it is still hard for people to come forward and obtain help; it is particularly hard for men and those from black and minority ethnic communities. Given the latter, football authorities have a duty of care to ensure that players and those in this profession can access support when required, in a confidential and timely manner. This is where Mental Health Fist Aid Lite trained Coaches come into play.

Through my extensive research, I have found out that at the moment, a few clubs send players who suffer with mental illness to the club's medical staff and then on to the PFA (Professional Footballers Association).. FAMH belief on this is that players probably won't want their personal details (of having a mental illness) passing to all and sundry and that having Mental Health First Aid trained staff is more confidential and ''There'' when you need it. Although many clubs have a chaplain, whom visits the club each week, this does not serve a 24-hour service, and the Chaplain is not ''there'' when needed! Some players have made comments that a club Chaplain has a 'Religious' feeling and belief to it and players feel uncomfortable with that!

FAMH have spoken to many professional football players over the last 5 years who state they would feel more confident in speaking to an In-House counsellor instead of going through medical staff right through to the PFA. One ex player who had served time in a UK prison after turning to crime due to the lack of after-care of his career states, if he had after care when his career were ending, he wouldn't have turned to crime.

FAMH are pushing Awareness of Mental Health, People/clubs/players etc need to know about mental health before the battle of starting to include Mental Health First Aiders in clubs. If managers/coaches don't understand why Mental Health is such a serious topic, they won't understand why they need Mental Health First Aiders, this is the aim of FAMH.

Having MHFA lite training within football echo’s all the national policy by the Department of Health and the UK Government, which is being developed such as the Parity of Esteem between mental health & physical health, The Crisis Care Concordant, No Health without Mental Health among others. Time for Change the mental health anti discrimination campaign run by Mind and Rethink also is starting to address mental health by working in partnership with football organisations to harness the power of the beautiful game as a force for social change.

Previous Incidents of Suicides within Football;

1. Charlie Adam

2. Leonard Adamov

3. Lucian Bălan

4. Martin Barbarič

5. Biermann 

6. Reginald Halsey Birkett

7. James Blair

8. Eduardo Guillermo Bonvallet Godoy

9. David Bystroň

10. Billy Callender

11. Timothy Douglas Carter

12. Carlos José Castilho

13. Ramiro Castillo

14. Cheung Sai Ho

15. Dave Clement

16. Uğur Dağdelen

17. Alan Davies

18. Agostino Di Bartolomei

19. Dermot Drummy

20. Knut Torbjørn Eggen

21. Robert Enke

22. Brian George Etheridge

23. Justin Fashanu

24. Hugh Ferguson

25. Hugh Kilpatrick Gallacher

26. Joan Gamper

27. Ricardo Antonio García Rodríguez

28. Władysław Gędłek

29. Evžen Hadamczik

30. Hans Hägele

31. William Gerald Holmes

32. Hu Denghui

33. Anatoli Aleksandrovich Izmailov

34. Jeong Min

35. Forbes Johnston

36. Jung Jong

37. Yuriy Karmelyuk

38. Ernest Sydney Syd

39. Andriano Batalovich Kokoskeriya

40. Friedhelm

41. Giannis Koskiniatis

42. Eduard Viktorovich Kosolapov

43. Oleksandr Kovalenko

44. Ľudovít Lancz

45. Stuart Edward Leary

46. Adam Ledwoń

47. Lee Kyung

48. Lee Soo

49. Bjørn Lidin Hansen

50. Vladimir Fyodorovich Lisitsin

51. Sergi López Segú

52. John Patrick Lyons

53. Paul McGrillen

54. Thomas McLaren

55. Christopher Philip Mitchell

56. Lester Morgan Suazo

57. Alfons Novickis

58. Uchenna Kizito Okafor

59. Elias Owen

60. Pavel Pergl

61. Zurab Popkhadze

62. Abdón Porte

63. Mikhail Aleksandrovich Potylchak

64. František Rajtoral

65. Abram Melato

66. Dale Roberts

67. Martyn Rogers

68. Vatta Parambath Sathyan

69. Erich Schaedler

70. Gary Andrew Speed

71. Marek Špilár

72. Costică Ștefănescu

73. Alberts Tarulis

74. Raimundo Tupper Lyon

75. Jimmy Yates

76. Vasyl Yevseyev

77. Yoon Ki

78. Sandor Kocsis

79. Matthias Sindelar

80. Forbes Johnston

(This list is not complete)

The average overall age of a Footballer taking their life based on the above information = 37 years
The average age of a UK born Footballer based on the information above = 37 years

Although the above Footballers are based around the world, out of the 89 recorded suicides, 30 are UK born! That is more suicides happening in our own nation than any other, based on the above details! This is a shocking discovery! And a shocking statistic! As of to date, I have found 89 Football players who have taken their lives, this is a further 30 suicides recorded than in 2012. This does not
include any footballers who have taken their lives but information has not been logged. There may be many more unrecorded Suicides of Footballers.! 

Preventing further suicides within Football

I believe that by including Mental Health First Aid Lite training into the FA
1st4Sport Level 1 Coaching Course syllabus, there is a huge chance that further suicides can be prevented. I aim this at Football Coaches because;

Coaches are at the heart of the club/team
Have regular contact with the players and other staff

If a Football Coach is trained to spot early signs of Mental Health issues such as depression, approaching the player earlier on, at the start of the illness, is much more likely to result in earlier treatment! Therefore preventing a possible suicide later on. As research shows, men are less likely to open up about a mental health issue and so having someone there to spot it such as a Football Coach, will have a positive effect. Not only will this relieve the player of pressures, knowing they have a mental health issue, but also relieve the player that they haven't had to make the 'first move' in opening up.


Petition Closed

This petition had 38 supporters