Swindon AdvertiserSAM MORSHEAD COLUMN: The stories of Pericard and Ling ought to inspire us to learn about mental illness (From Swindon Advertiser)

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SAM MORSHEAD COLUMN: The stories of Pericard and Ling ought to inspire us to learn about mental illness

Swindon Advertiser: Sam Morshead Sam Morshead

IF YOU, like me, have never suffered the debilitating weight of depression, it can be a hard concept to truly comprehend.

This week the Advertiser has run a series of pieces on the dark side of football – the mental struggles behind closed doors we rarely see, almost never hear about and as a result find it difficult to get our heads around.

Vincent Pericard and Martin Ling have both been through the torment of the condition; a disease which doesn’t show itself, breeds on silence and spreads savagely through a victim’s psyche like a rabid virus.

They both have come out the other side, thanks in no small part to the willingness of those around them to adapt to their situations and offer the sympathy and support they needed.

With cancer, AIDs, addiction and every other all-consuming, life-altering illness filed under nature’s most hideous crafts, connecting to an individual’s circumstance is much easier. Not easy, don’t get me wrong. Easier.

Depression and anxiety is a crazed assassin that thrives on whispers and whimpers, and in football circles – where weakness is unacceptable – it can regenerate with alarming consequence.

Speaking to Vincent and Martin as I put together these pieces, I found myself open-mouthed at the destructive effect these diseases can cause and how, in an industry like football, you or I can be unwitting accomplices.

Sport provides a framework for depression to thrive. It’s always in the public eye, susceptible to immense criticism from a massive audience, and the demand for success often clouds people’s judgements. We don’t ask ‘what is the effect of my words on this player’. Evidently, from the examples we’ve put before you this week, that can kick-start a savage cycle of events which, once off and running, can race out of control like an unmanned train.

That’s not to say footballers, and other sportsmen and women for that matter, should not have their performances scrutinised. They are there for a purpose – to entertain – and in an entertainment industry the critic is king.

But both Vincent and Martin make a point that balanced views, considered arguments and constructive thinking are much more responsible courses of action – not heat-of-the-moment tirades, off-the-cuff remarks and sensationalism.

I’ve been guilty of all three in the not-so-distant past. I’m sure you have too. You don’t contemplate how a footballer might react, particularly in the modern age of social media, because quite often they appear detached from reality operating as they are in an elite bubble, more shielded from the public eye today than they ever have been.

So what’s the answer? Frankly, I don’t think there is one. Vincent and Martin were both at pains to stress that understanding depression is ultimately nigh-on impossible for those who haven’t experienced it. But one fifth of the population each year does, in one form or another, and maybe it’s time we listened to what they have to say, learnt from their experiences and adapted ourselves accordingly.

Without that mutual cooperation, a support network cannot exist. Criticism must and will always remain but it’s easier to jump for the jugular than consider all the factors which may contribute to a downturn in form from a striker or a series of goalkeeping clangers. It’s easy, too.

It’s not a simple transition - human instinct points a finger at everyone else before turning it on ourselves – but it’s a transition that must be made if we are ever going to even try to understand the complexities of mental illness, depression and anxiety.

For as long as there is silence, they will continue to breed.

Comments (8)

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6:58am Thu 10 Apr 14

easternexile says...

Good piece Sam. In the male dominated world of football there is always taboo when it comes to certain things. Depression has not grabbed the headlines as much as the possibility of one day a gay footballer finally being able to come out without fear. Football is in a bubble when it is compared with what is accepted and talked about in the everyday world.

The slagging off of players during a match comes out in all this, especially with Pericard. I can understand the argument of fans paying the money so have a right to shout abuse at a player who's playing badly. But how is that behaviour ever going to improve a player's performance?

I hope these moving stories reach the national press and it helps others deal with depression and so they can be given the courage to get help and receive everyone's support rather than retreat secretly to the depths of despair.
Good piece Sam. In the male dominated world of football there is always taboo when it comes to certain things. Depression has not grabbed the headlines as much as the possibility of one day a gay footballer finally being able to come out without fear. Football is in a bubble when it is compared with what is accepted and talked about in the everyday world. The slagging off of players during a match comes out in all this, especially with Pericard. I can understand the argument of fans paying the money so have a right to shout abuse at a player who's playing badly. But how is that behaviour ever going to improve a player's performance? I hope these moving stories reach the national press and it helps others deal with depression and so they can be given the courage to get help and receive everyone's support rather than retreat secretly to the depths of despair. easternexile
  • Score: 10

8:08am Thu 10 Apr 14

mancrobin says...

Sam, good series of articles but thought you could have said a bit more on this. In particular, I note that there is no mention of what the Club's view on the issue nor how they would deal with such situations.

You've raised awareness and started a really interesting and useful debate (and how rare it is these days to be able to praise journalism for doing its job effectively) and I would like to see you move it on from us fans to the industry itself.
Sam, good series of articles but thought you could have said a bit more on this. In particular, I note that there is no mention of what the Club's view on the issue nor how they would deal with such situations. You've raised awareness and started a really interesting and useful debate (and how rare it is these days to be able to praise journalism for doing its job effectively) and I would like to see you move it on from us fans to the industry itself. mancrobin
  • Score: 5

9:09am Thu 10 Apr 14

Cleuso says...

Unfortunately the media in general have increased the pressure on footballers and to an extent everyone in the public eye. In football this spills over to the "terraces" and encourages criticism and abuse on a daily basis.

" Phone ins, text ins, discussions, internet forums, have your say," are all vehicles for criticism and that abuse, with no immediate right of reply by those targetted. or understanding of the issues with the individual.

If Town lose on Saturday you will see that behaviour replicated here.

There is responsibility on those that operate within media circles and although in favour of free speech, that such personal abuse should be suppressed would they allow those statements to be made publically about issues such as race.

These articles and the message sent by Sam should be a wake up call to some, but somehow I doubt that they will take it on board.
Unfortunately the media in general have increased the pressure on footballers and to an extent everyone in the public eye. In football this spills over to the "terraces" and encourages criticism and abuse on a daily basis. " Phone ins, text ins, discussions, internet forums, have your say," are all vehicles for criticism and that abuse, with no immediate right of reply by those targetted. or understanding of the issues with the individual. If Town lose on Saturday you will see that behaviour replicated here. There is responsibility on those that operate within media circles and although in favour of free speech, that such personal abuse should be suppressed would they allow those statements to be made publically about issues such as race. These articles and the message sent by Sam should be a wake up call to some, but somehow I doubt that they will take it on board. Cleuso
  • Score: 3

9:53am Thu 10 Apr 14

Archive Robin says...

Cleuso wrote:
Unfortunately the media in general have increased the pressure on footballers and to an extent everyone in the public eye. In football this spills over to the "terraces" and encourages criticism and abuse on a daily basis.

" Phone ins, text ins, discussions, internet forums, have your say," are all vehicles for criticism and that abuse, with no immediate right of reply by those targetted. or understanding of the issues with the individual.

If Town lose on Saturday you will see that behaviour replicated here.

There is responsibility on those that operate within media circles and although in favour of free speech, that such personal abuse should be suppressed would they allow those statements to be made publically about issues such as race.

These articles and the message sent by Sam should be a wake up call to some, but somehow I doubt that they will take it on board.
Good post and hits the nail on the head. It also has to be said though that as the local paper the "Adver" has a responsibility for vetting comments prior to public consumption as it's all very well saying that they have been guilty of allowing comments and indeed making them themselves concerning players performances and behaviour but they allowed it to happen in the first place. I accept they are not the only outlet for fans to vent their frustrations but they have more control than most in allowing it to happen in the first place and in my opinion they are extremely adept at "laying the boot in" with gusto when the opportunity presents itself and frequently do.

To give VP his due he arrived at the club at around (slightly before) the same time the "Leeds AA" bunch arrived and this would definitely not have helped his cause as the atmosphere they generated would have been enough to drive most people to despair. It would have been interesting to see the type of player he may have developed into had he been here when PDC was at the club - not all agreed with his methods but he installed the discipline the Leeds contingent destroyed and ensured all the players were 100% fit. It is great to hear VP he is on the mend though and getting on with his life and interesting to note that he holds no malice towards the Town fans for the treatment he received which is very refreshing to see.
[quote][p][bold]Cleuso[/bold] wrote: Unfortunately the media in general have increased the pressure on footballers and to an extent everyone in the public eye. In football this spills over to the "terraces" and encourages criticism and abuse on a daily basis. " Phone ins, text ins, discussions, internet forums, have your say," are all vehicles for criticism and that abuse, with no immediate right of reply by those targetted. or understanding of the issues with the individual. If Town lose on Saturday you will see that behaviour replicated here. There is responsibility on those that operate within media circles and although in favour of free speech, that such personal abuse should be suppressed would they allow those statements to be made publically about issues such as race. These articles and the message sent by Sam should be a wake up call to some, but somehow I doubt that they will take it on board.[/p][/quote]Good post and hits the nail on the head. It also has to be said though that as the local paper the "Adver" has a responsibility for vetting comments prior to public consumption as it's all very well saying that they have been guilty of allowing comments and indeed making them themselves concerning players performances and behaviour but they allowed it to happen in the first place. I accept they are not the only outlet for fans to vent their frustrations but they have more control than most in allowing it to happen in the first place and in my opinion they are extremely adept at "laying the boot in" with gusto when the opportunity presents itself and frequently do. To give VP his due he arrived at the club at around (slightly before) the same time the "Leeds AA" bunch arrived and this would definitely not have helped his cause as the atmosphere they generated would have been enough to drive most people to despair. It would have been interesting to see the type of player he may have developed into had he been here when PDC was at the club - not all agreed with his methods but he installed the discipline the Leeds contingent destroyed and ensured all the players were 100% fit. It is great to hear VP he is on the mend though and getting on with his life and interesting to note that he holds no malice towards the Town fans for the treatment he received which is very refreshing to see. Archive Robin
  • Score: 4

10:32am Thu 10 Apr 14

tifosi says...

Sam's quote ....'So what’s the answer? Frankly, I don’t think there is one'.

But then goes on to give the answer ... and a good answer ..
'it’s time we listened to what they have to say, learnt from their experiences and adapted ourselves accordingly. ....... without that mutual cooperation, a support network cannot exist. ......human instinct points a finger at everyone else before turning it on ourselves'.

Well said

An important part of this problem is the dishing out of abuse to players who don't do what we expect them to do. It's ridiculous and counter productive even for a player who can deal with it emotionally. It helps the opposition, and harms the confidence of our own players and the team as a whole.

Openness about mental health is still a little distance off. Maybe soon it can be openly faced and the stigma of depression and other mental illnesses can be a thing of the past. There is respect for the physically disabled so it's only a short step for respect for the clinically depressed and others.

So maybe the boo boys can engage their brains before starting up to demoralise their own players and the team.
Sam's quote ....'So what’s the answer? Frankly, I don’t think there is one'. But then goes on to give the answer ... and a good answer .. 'it’s time we listened to what they have to say, learnt from their experiences and adapted ourselves accordingly. ....... without that mutual cooperation, a support network cannot exist. ......human instinct points a finger at everyone else before turning it on ourselves'. Well said An important part of this problem is the dishing out of abuse to players who don't do what we expect them to do. It's ridiculous and counter productive even for a player who can deal with it emotionally. It helps the opposition, and harms the confidence of our own players and the team as a whole. Openness about mental health is still a little distance off. Maybe soon it can be openly faced and the stigma of depression and other mental illnesses can be a thing of the past. There is respect for the physically disabled so it's only a short step for respect for the clinically depressed and others. So maybe the boo boys can engage their brains before starting up to demoralise their own players and the team. tifosi
  • Score: 6

3:32pm Thu 10 Apr 14

townend Paul says...

tifosi wrote:
Sam's quote ....'So what’s the answer? Frankly, I don’t think there is one'.

But then goes on to give the answer ... and a good answer ..
'it’s time we listened to what they have to say, learnt from their experiences and adapted ourselves accordingly. ....... without that mutual cooperation, a support network cannot exist. ......human instinct points a finger at everyone else before turning it on ourselves'.

Well said

An important part of this problem is the dishing out of abuse to players who don't do what we expect them to do. It's ridiculous and counter productive even for a player who can deal with it emotionally. It helps the opposition, and harms the confidence of our own players and the team as a whole.

Openness about mental health is still a little distance off. Maybe soon it can be openly faced and the stigma of depression and other mental illnesses can be a thing of the past. There is respect for the physically disabled so it's only a short step for respect for the clinically depressed and others.

So maybe the boo boys can engage their brains before starting up to demoralise their own players and the team.
First of all I think that this weeks reports by Sam and this last report are the best that you have ever done and i thank and Congratulate you Sam on them.
And Secondly Tifosi has put it wonderfully when he says
"An important part of this problem is the dishing out of abuse to players who don't do what we expect them to do. It's ridiculous and counter productive even for a player who can deal with it emotionally. It helps the opposition, and harms the confidence of our own players and the team as a whole"
We only have to look at ourselves on this, when we do get behind the Team when behind or not playing at the best we have all seen them respond and try harder and better it doesn't always work but it helps us all when the team respond to positive support. Just look at the palace Fans, the German fans in their league who never give up on their team and they see their players try and play there hearts out, so to someone who may be going through this terrible affliction and really trying there best our support to them on the pitch just may in some small way help,
So to all of my fellow supporters Lets just SUPPORT the team and leave the negativity outside.
[quote][p][bold]tifosi[/bold] wrote: Sam's quote ....'So what’s the answer? Frankly, I don’t think there is one'. But then goes on to give the answer ... and a good answer .. 'it’s time we listened to what they have to say, learnt from their experiences and adapted ourselves accordingly. ....... without that mutual cooperation, a support network cannot exist. ......human instinct points a finger at everyone else before turning it on ourselves'. Well said An important part of this problem is the dishing out of abuse to players who don't do what we expect them to do. It's ridiculous and counter productive even for a player who can deal with it emotionally. It helps the opposition, and harms the confidence of our own players and the team as a whole. Openness about mental health is still a little distance off. Maybe soon it can be openly faced and the stigma of depression and other mental illnesses can be a thing of the past. There is respect for the physically disabled so it's only a short step for respect for the clinically depressed and others. So maybe the boo boys can engage their brains before starting up to demoralise their own players and the team.[/p][/quote]First of all I think that this weeks reports by Sam and this last report are the best that you have ever done and i thank and Congratulate you Sam on them. And Secondly Tifosi has put it wonderfully when he says "An important part of this problem is the dishing out of abuse to players who don't do what we expect them to do. It's ridiculous and counter productive even for a player who can deal with it emotionally. It helps the opposition, and harms the confidence of our own players and the team as a whole" We only have to look at ourselves on this, when we do get behind the Team when behind or not playing at the best we have all seen them respond and try harder and better it doesn't always work but it helps us all when the team respond to positive support. Just look at the palace Fans, the German fans in their league who never give up on their team and they see their players try and play there hearts out, so to someone who may be going through this terrible affliction and really trying there best our support to them on the pitch just may in some small way help, So to all of my fellow supporters Lets just SUPPORT the team and leave the negativity outside. townend Paul
  • Score: 2

4:41pm Thu 10 Apr 14

newburyrobin2 says...

A great article and very understanding. Having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety four months ago and I can totally relate to both of them.
A great article and very understanding. Having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety four months ago and I can totally relate to both of them. newburyrobin2
  • Score: 0

5:28pm Thu 10 Apr 14

umpcah says...

newburyrobin2 wrote:
A great article and very understanding. Having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety four months ago and I can totally relate to both of them.
Me too ! Thirty years ago for some time and nearly causing a breakup in my marriage ; and for a short time more recently. People tell you to pull yourself together and despite trying to you cant do it - not at short notice anyway ! You need help and understanding from loved ones and work colleagues ; and in the case of the latter it can be in short supply as you quickly become the office/workshop clown. It really is a matter of self-worth and it has to be rebuilt but it can be done and my best wishes go to Vince , Martin and all who suffer with this lousy condition.
[quote][p][bold]newburyrobin2[/bold] wrote: A great article and very understanding. Having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety four months ago and I can totally relate to both of them.[/p][/quote]Me too ! Thirty years ago for some time and nearly causing a breakup in my marriage ; and for a short time more recently. People tell you to pull yourself together and despite trying to you cant do it - not at short notice anyway ! You need help and understanding from loved ones and work colleagues ; and in the case of the latter it can be in short supply as you quickly become the office/workshop clown. It really is a matter of self-worth and it has to be rebuilt but it can be done and my best wishes go to Vince , Martin and all who suffer with this lousy condition. umpcah
  • Score: 3

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