Football. It’s defined as a ‘team game involving kicking’. For me, it’s been a lifeline.
Through the course of a turbulent couple of years, for both myself, and so many others, that football has become something we can truly rely on. In a time where nothing is guaranteed – the irrevocable adoration we share for our club, has been a constant, and a saviour.
I don’t ever think people who don’t spend their weekends and brisk midweek evenings in their local stadiums will ever understand what it means to watch your team be turned over by a club two divisions lower. I don’t think I’ll ever wrap my head around that either – yet here I am, and boy am I glad.
For those people, football is simply a game, a day out for ‘men’ to go to the pub, drink to excess, and place bets – and it might very well be.
But what these people perhaps don’t always choose to recognise is the fact that, in the same context, the male suicide rate is three times that of the female.
And for so many, football is a time to be with friends, be distracted, and celebrate some of the ‘little wins’ in life.
I can honestly say that lockdown without football was one of the hardest times of my life. Suffering bereavements under immeasurable restriction was a situation once unfathomable to my young self. Yet, I was thrown into the processes of grief, seemingly alone – and very much in the dark.
The unavoidable sadness I felt during those weeks was something I continue to hope nobody ever has to go through – but, unfortunately, it’s a reality, and a constant battle for countless people, pandemic or not.
In a time of little hope for our nation, watching our football teams (even through a screen) was something that provided an ounce of joy when moments of happiness were few and far between.
It was a lifeline.
And, although the world may have moved on, battles still remain. The difference now is that we are together.
As I mentioned earlier, the harrowing male suicide statistic is an eye opener into an issue crying out for help, it’s one numerical summarisation of the 3,925 souls lost during 2020, and across countless years that came before.
These statistics, coupled with the awareness we are beginning to see, are the first brushstroke on a far wider picture – one that could save lives.
I don’t believe there is a day gone by I haven’t thought, spoken or written about football – and, I know that is the case for so many, Male or female, young and old. Whether it’s your cup of tea or not, it’s a conversation starter. A simple ‘What’s the score’, can lead to a conversation that could save lives.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts & feelings, there is help available;— SAFC Branch Liaison Council (@BlcSafc) September 10, 2022
Text SHOUT to 85258
call the Samaritans on 116 123 or the Initial Response Service on 0800 652 2868.
These services are free, confidential, anonymous, available 24/7 & can provide you with support pic.twitter.com/rnUFHEgy1x
An interest shared becomes a common one - a problem shared becomes a lighter one. One easier to deal with, and one that becomes a manageable issue, not an overbearing one.
Not at any point am I trying to say that football can solve a worldwide problem, or that it can heal broken hearts. But what I can tell you is that it brings people together.
I can truly say I have met some of the most wonderful people I know through football, and the friendships I not only share but witness give me hope.
Hope for a time where talking about mental health is as common as discussing the starting 11.
The recent advance in women’s football gives me hope for a time when young girls like myself can rely on a once perceived ‘man’s game’ to get them through the dark times. I myself, now find comfort in knowing that despite the unavoidable bumps in the road we call life, I can always fall back on football.
However useless Sunderland may be at times, it no longer matters. Whether that ninety minutes is spent shouting at the ref or celebrating a last-minute winner. I’m surrounded by people who understand me, people that care – and I promise, they are all around you too.
You just need to find them.
Suicide can be an emotive topic and if you are struggling, you are not alone. Taking the first step and speaking to someone about how you feel can be hard but we want to remind you that support is available. For info on local & national support, visit: https://t.co/gjMeu9WMBQ pic.twitter.com/aUf6KiiHfv— Washington Mind (@washingtonmind) September 10, 2022