Paul Merson and Chris Kirkland stressed the importance of talking about mental health issues after both suffered with depression as players.
Talking about the subject on Tuesday’s episode of The Debate, Merson discussed how his own depression in his playing days affected him.
Everybody sees it in themselves. By talking to people, others will be thinking ‘I get like that’ because they might not know what it is, Merson said.
Some people may think they’re depressed because they haven’t got any money, but that’s not the case because you can have millions and it doesn’t matter. I was in treatment with Oscar winners, so it doesn’t matter who you are.
It is so important to talk, I can’t emphasise it enough but it is the hardest thing to do as well. Every now and then, you get this horrible thing in your head that says ‘don’t ring so and so, they’re probably having dinner or are in the bath’, and your brain will always make an excuse. We need to talk more.
In those days, you’re thinking ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, how can I be like this? I’m playing the best sport in the world, I’ve got the best job in the world, I play for one of the best clubs in Europe, I’m earning good money and I’m like this. It can’t be right’.
You’re embarrassed to tell someone because they would have just said ‘pull yourself together’. It was horrible and it has a vicious way of working where it drags you in to be alone.
I’ve got the tools now where I know when it comes and I know it’s going to go again. I don’t have the fear that I did before that it could be with me forever.
Kirkland has also been vocal in recent years about his struggle with depression and anxiety, and is pleased that his own story has inspired other men to talk about their mental health.
My wife didn’t know the extent because I hid a lot of it, not through shame, but just because I was scared, Kirkland said. I didn’t really know what was happening and it just takes over you. You can be sitting there and all of a sudden, it can be like someone else has entered your body and you know what’s happening, but you just can’t stop it.
I don’t like being on my own anymore. For six months, I never went out of the house. I didn’t answer phone calls or texts, something just takes over you but now, if I feel that way, I’ll take the dog out for an hour or go to the gym, I’ve started my own goalkeeping academy up because I need to keep occupied.
I still have anxiety but I’ve been seeing a lady up in Manchester and she’s given me coping mechanisms for that so I can see a way now of battling it whereas before, you’re trapped in this vicious circle and it’s the worst thing ever.
I wanted to come out and say something to help people in general, especially men, to be able to talk. The response that we’ve had has been incredible. There’s not been one negative thing at all.
People in the street have come up to me and said ‘I can relate to what you’ve been through, thanks for helping me’. It’s done what I wanted it to do and it’s helped me by talking about it too.