The Heads Up mental health campaign was launched in February helped by the Duke of Cambridge. It follows a spike in the number of football players seeking mental health support since the start of the lockdown.
Compared with last years figures of 653 players accessing support this first quarter has already seen just shy of half of that, some 299 and counting.
The PFA (Partners Football Association) director of player welfare, Michael Bennett commented that he’s worried that the impact of the situation has hit home for the players. He states that some have financial worries, while others have raised concerns over gambling.
“When you are used to structure and are unable to follow that being stuck indoors day in, day out-I am concerned about the football players emotional and mental health”.
“It is key for them to understand that when something doesn’t seem right that they seek support.”
“We had an idea that to begin with, it would be a bit of a honeymoon period, but we always thought the longer it went on, the more it would hit home”.
Having first been paused on March 13th, Elite football in England -the Premier League and the three divisions that make up the league are currently suspended indefinitely. They do hope to complete the current season but how or when remains uncertain.
Players caught up panic buying
Earlier it was proposed that EFL (English Football League) and PFA proposed those in leagues one and two defer up to twenty-five per cent of players’ wages.
Bennett said that after an initial trickle of players, more were coming forward to talk about financial problems. He commented that they put forward a proposal to ensure players were aware they could access support through their benevolent fund should they have any financial hardship.
After an initial “trickle” of players approaching the PFA to talk about financial problems, Bennett said more and more were now coming forward to seek help.
“During the first few weeks, we had players calling because they’d been caught up panic buying and overspending money they don’t really have. They were now struggling to get by.”
He added with boredom now setting in he was now concerned about the increase of gambling among players.
A leading UK charity for problem gamblers stated that addicts might be at greater risk during the pandemic, but it was too early to tell if numbers were on the rise.
The number of players seeking mental health support has risen year on year. In 2008 some 428 increasing to 53 in 2019 – and if the rest of 2020 follows suit, then some 1,200 will seek support from Sporting Chance Clinic’s therapists and confidential helpline.
Now that social distancing is fully in place; sessions are being conducted virtually via video call.
A questionnaire has also been sent to members asking about their mental health. We are slowly getting responses, and while we continue to monitor them, we are supporting those who have requested it.