Jason McAteer: Through the Storm | Mental health in football and society

Jason McAteer: Through the Storm | Mental health in football and society
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How could it, in your mind,
when you look back now, ever get to a point where
you’re going through that tunnel and things have gotten so bad
that you’re thinking about…? I’ve no idea. I don’t know. That’s the problem with depression,
you just don’t know. It’s the strangest thing, because you fall over and break your leg,
someone puts a cast on your leg, and you sit there with this big white thing on
and everyone shows sympathy towards you, and you know that it’s a time process,
that you will be all right and you’ll walk again, and your leg will be all right, but when it’s something to do with
your mind and your thought process, it’s your thought process, it’s how you… problem-solve I think. It’s how you problem-solve. I’m Jason McAteer. In 2007 I was diagnosed
as clinically depressed. I was one of the lucky ones. With the right help, I was able to
get my life back on track again. One in four people will experience
a mental health problem in the UK each year, that’s about 16 million people. I want to know more about mental health. What it is, how it affects all walks of society
and what more can be done. You’ve two main categories
of mental health problems. You’ve got what’s often called
severe and enduring mental illness, so those are things like schizophrenia,
psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression, that’s where people go through periods of feeling really high and hyper and manic and find it difficult to control what they do, followed by long periods
of deep, deep depression. There’s another set of what
some people call mental disorders, and they’re called
common mental health disorders, and they are things like
anxiety, depression, phobias, and it’s estimated that about one in four
people are suffering from those disorders, a quarter of the population at any one time
is either depressed or anxious. The way that depression is defined medically is that if someone has been feeling down
or depressed, has little interest
or pleasure in doing things and has found it difficult to go about their
everyday activities for two weeks or more. And it was around the 1980s that
we noticed that the way people think had a really big affect on their mood, and it’s back to that idea
of saying the glass is half-empty or half-full, that the way you interpret
your world affects your mood. It affects the whole range
of people in our society, right through from people
who are working every day through to people who lead
what look like very good lives – professional footballers, elite athletes
we know are affected by this, celebrities, politicians, we know that it is
completely indiscriminate in who it affects, and suffering from depression does not
say anything about you as a person, because it affects so many people
from a broad range of backgrounds. Growing up in a terraced house in Tranmere, it was a very close community really, it was
very much out in the street, playing games. My mum worked in the bakery that my nan
and grandad – her mum and dad – had. And she also had cleaning jobs
just to earn some extra money, to give us Christmas presents
and basically to put food on the table. Chalk and cheese really, my mum and dad. He came from a family of six,
one sister and five brothers, very tough upbringing, a very strict father, in and out of work,
it became very difficult for him and then the pressures of married life
and not working and all of that took its toll and unfortunately
his marriage to my mum broke down and they split up
and went their separate ways. When I was very young, we’d always be
in the park, messing around, playing footy, so that’s probably where
my love of football came from. He pushed us to the limit as kids. Second was never really good enough, he wasn’t very interested in coming home
and saying, “I done well in this race”, he wanted to hear the words, “I won.” It became quite hard actually, as I was
growing up, to make him feel proud. To make him think that I was
what he wanted me to be. Just went from one team to another,
progressing through the years, trialled for Tranmere, trialled for Everton,
trialled for Manchester United, but was never asked back. Rejection was becoming
quite common in my life and it was becoming harder
and harder to please my dad, cos I felt I still had that pressure, my mum was always the shoulder to cry on,
always the person I would go to, my nan played a big part in that as well. And I just thought, “I’ve missed the boat here”, I’m going to have to look at my life
and think maybe football’s not for me. Next thing I was playing in Marine’s reserves. I started doing really, really well. We played Bolton, the Bolton A team. After the game, Dave Ramsden said, “Phil Neal was at the game
and he’s just asked me about you.” I was like, “Phil Neal from Liverpool?!” “You’ve got a trial for Bolton.” And that’s where it all started. Nowadays, a footballer’s journey
begins much earlier. It feels like the world is changing
at a faster pace than when I was young. Pressures are everywhere we turn. So I’ve come to Liverpool’s Academy to see how my club are
looking after their youngsters. My name’s Phil Roscoe, I’m the Head of
Education and Welfare, looking after the
educational requirements and support for the boys from 9 through to 23, and obviously dealing with
any welfare/player care. My name’s Alex Inglethorpe,
I’m the Academy Manager and my responsibility extends
to everything that is the Academy, so I’d be responsible for every boy
that comes into the Academy and all the staff and facilities. What’s kind of the obvious things that you would notice
when a player is struggling a little bit? Well, I think that’s
the thing with mental health, you can look for obvious signs, and people might think the obvious signs
are that you maybe become disengaged, the signs of depression might be that
you don’t interact with the rest of the group in the way that you did, maybe physically
you can change, loss of appetite, but the truth is that sometimes
you just don’t know, people are pretty good
at covering it up as well. So I think that where children are concerned,
it’s got to be a collaborative effort between parents, coaches, teachers, I think everyone has to play their part in this. And ongoing in terms of support,
I’d like to think that here we do have relevant counsels here,
and also we’re prepared to take the children to
experts that can help. If you want to safeguard mental health, the message has got to be
that you’ve got to talk to someone, or try and talk to someone,
and feel OK to talk to someone, and if it’s us – fantastic. But if it’s not us – equally fantastic. It’s making people understand as well
that that’s OK. At some point in your life, whether it be younger or,
you’re gonna have a bad time. And you’re gonna need help, you’re gonna
need to speak, and it’s normal, it’s OK. And I think it’s creating that environment
where if you’re unsure and you want to speak to someone, you can. The problem with football historically –
and I’m guessing this was your experience cos it was possibly mine as well – is that you’re in an industry where
you become institutionalised. Yeah. “Man up. Toughen up. Don’t quit.
Don’t show any emotion.” And don’t show any weakness, cos the moment you show a coach
a weakness – you’re out the team. And I think that maybe parents
get onto that quite quickly as well. You know, “Come on.” And of course, your dad’s
always gonna say if you fall over, “Bounce up, come on, you’ll be all right.” And that’s fine, but over a period of years
you can become institutionalised to, if you show a weakness,
then you’re unemployable. The modern generation now
is dealing with social media, obviously Instagram, Twitter… Well, I don’t know, I’m too old for it.
Snapchat… But it seems to play a massive part
in now kids growing up and brings its own pressure.
How do you deal with that, with kids here? The problem with the generation now is,
there’s a risk that everything is now. And if you’re not in the first team at 19 –
“What am I doing wrong?” Your life comes crashing down, and if you
haven’t got 20,000 followers on Twitter – “There’s a problem with me.
How come I haven’t got this?” And I just think there’s a generation of kids
that we have to really help with this. When there’s a problem with a boy a lot of people come
on that journey with you, it’s not like, “Oh, there’s a problem,
you deal with that.” JASON: You all take it on-board collectively. We all go on that journey together. Well, if you want to bring it to life, this week I’ve walked past
the meeting rooms three times and seen boys that were here
three or four years ago sitting in with either members of staff,
external counsellors that we’re funding because they’re going through a rough time.
But they left here three or four years ago. I think it’s amazing the efforts that you’re
doing and what you’re putting in place, and speaking to you now,
you seem to have cornered every angle. Every day we can get better,
with the parental education, with coach education around understanding
of mental health and what it looks like, just around all the bits and pieces,
I think we’re scratching the surface, I’m not sitting here saying that we’ve nailed it
and we’ve got everything in place, because we haven’t. We’re trying, and we’ve
recognised we’ve got to get better and there’s a responsibility we’ve got. I signed for Liverpool
and then I went to Melwood. Two days later, Ian Rush walks in,
and then John Barnes, and then Jamie Redknapp,
Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler. I don’t know how to explain it really,
I’d entered this different world. You kind of act the part because
you don’t know what you need to do, you don’t know how you need to be. You kind of copy them a little bit
and you get dressed when they get dressed, so all the things I used to do
at Bolton had gone, all my thought process
of playing had gone. Then you go out and play,
and you run out at Anfield in the red kit, and you get this empowerment,
it’s this feeling of, like… It’s like with the kit on
you’ve become a superhero. Probably for the first couple
of games it goes all right. And all of a sudden you realise
that everything’s being analysed. Everything’s being analysed, there’s loads of
papers to fill, then there’s marks out of ten, then there’s three, four, five, six journalists
all got an opinion on how you’ve played, and then all of a sudden you find
you’ve got loads more mates, then everyone’s got everything
to say about your performance – “There’s McAteer, there’s Fowler,
there’s Redknapp.” And they would come over, “Didn’t play
very well at the weekend, did you? “I can’t believe yous lost that.” And then suddenly there was this pressure,
this immense pressure, I just felt… It just was, you know… All of a sudden you realised that you’re at
a football club where winning is everything. You had to win, there is no place
for losing football matches. It was just… pressure like I’d never, ever felt before. I managed to manage the pressure
in my own way, but it came at a price. It came at a price that, later on,
would probably affect me in an adverse way. 30 years later, and the pressure
of playing for Liverpool is no different, but has the approach
to players’ wellbeing changed? In my day, you wouldn’t dream of telling
your coach that you were struggling or that you felt a bit down. So what about the stars of today? Who is there to pick up the pieces for them? Who is there when they feel the need to talk? I’m Yvie Ryan and I’m the Performance
Psychologist at Liverpool Football Club. My role at the club is to head up
the psychology for both Melwood and the Academy. Ensuring that we are looking after first
and foremost the wellbeing of the players, so they are people first before they’re players and making sure that we
look after them in that way. I think in football there is a stigma
around mental health, but I think that is society-wide. Getting players to recognise that psychology isn’t
about you being broken. That psychology is about,
“Do you know what, I wanna just be happy.” Quite often we, not just players, but we do
hold onto beliefs that are unhelpful. Not just in sport but in life, and that can really
impact on how we react and behave. They’re not robots or superheroes,
which actually we think they are. But when we strip it all back,
they’re just human beings and they all have the same brain
as we have, it’s no different, and mental health doesn’t just affect people
who are struggling in society, it affects people who are in really great
high-powered jobs, great businesses, so it could be anybody,
we don’t know who it will affect. I love the fact I got to
play for Liverpool 139 times. I loved it so much that, when the time came
to leave, it was almost impossible to accept. I think the first time I felt it all unravelling was,
obviously Liverpool had changed manager… – Yeah, that was terrible.
– Gerard Houllier came in. And then we’d lived this seven, eight years
achieving the dream of playing football. And then all of a sudden – bang, first rejection, leaving the club I dreamt
of playing for, Liverpool. I found that a massive turning point
in my life, that was the start of the end I felt. When I left and went to Blackburn, how
did you feel through that leaving process, did you see a change in me? Yeah, you can see it by the photographs
when you’re holding up the shirt, that’s not the shirt
you wanted to be holding up, but I sometimes wonder
if you did it too quickly. Yeah, that’s one of my regrets,
I think I left too soon. Because I remember you coming to work,
you said, “Mum, can you come out?” I came out of work and you just broke down
crying, and I always remember that. And I was so upset for you,
and I thought, “Wow.” And, yes, that was my initial thought –
“He should have waited that little bit longer.” Leaving Liverpool felt like
the beginning of the end for me. Looking back, it was leaving something
and somewhere I really loved. And it caused so much turmoil. While making this programme, I read about
former Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, whose struggles came late in his career. I wanted to find out more
about the problems he faced, and so I decided to visit him
and his wife Leeona. I was 18 and you were 21, weren’t you? – Yes.
– We met in Spain. We met in Spain, yeah. I was in the youth team but
I said I was a land surveyor. Yeah. You were a land surveyor? Yeah, because I was with my mate,
who was a land surveyor. Oh, so you knew all the… OK, yeah. It was a few weeks before
I told you, weren’t it? I remember picking you up
from the airport and saying… Covered in mud with a pair
of goalkeeping gloves on? You said that and I said, “I’ve got something
to tell you – my name’s not actually Fiona.” Cos he called me Fiona for those
first four weeks or whatever! I couldn’t understand her accent, so I called
her Fiona, until one day she went, “Are you actually gonna call me
by my proper name?” And I was like, “What do you mean?” “Leeona.” I thought, “I’ll see how long
I can keep this going.” He was so kind, he was great company, there was just something, he was so relaxed, he came across
very down to earth, and I was just drawn to him. I couldn’t wait to wake up
in the morning and get into training. I just loved being at the club. When I did get in, I performed quite well. Nothing fazed me back me then.
I’ve said it all my career, it’s not until you get older that you
realise the magnitude of some of the games you played in, you think, “Wow, hold on a minute,
that was a big game I played in there.” Rafa told me I wasn’t gonna play.
I knew that I had to leave for that reason, even though I didn’t want to leave. – You know what it’s like.
– Yeah, yeah. You don’t want to leave,
but I knew I had to at the same time. – Wigan.
– Wigan. I was there for six years.
First four years – brilliant. I got Player of the Year a couple of times, I made my England debut,
everything was great. Everything was great, and it rippled back to
being at home, everything was just… – Yeah, everything was great.
– As it should be. – We had Lucy.
– Yeah, she was born when he was there. He just felt part of something again. And then Steve Bruce left, and the last two years
were tough at Wigan, I didn’t play much. Lucy was six, and I was thinking, “I don’t want
to move away”, she’d just started school, so I started to think about all this stuff,
you know, what club I’m going to be at. So I started panicking big time,
thinking, “I don’t want to move”, cos Leeona had made great friends here,
lived here for a while, I started thinking,
“Wow, what’s gonna happen now?” I’ve always been a home person. I didn’t like
being out of my comfort zone, I suppose. Even when I was in the England squads
and stuff like that, I didn’t like being away at all. Ten days
in a hotel, I didn’t feel comfortable. What was the feeling
you had when you were…? Panic. Anxiety. Sweats. I’d be in my room
and I remember crying a lot of the time, thinking, “Oh, I wish I was at home.” Yeah, you were always
on the phone, weren’t you? I’d be like,
“Are you enjoying it, how’s it going?” “Yeah, yeah, great,
but I just want to be at home”, that was always the vibe
all the time, any time he was away, and that was quite early on. CHRIS: Yeah. Even though I was confident
of getting another club, Sheffield Wednesday were
probably the only ones that came in for me. So I signed for them, and I was
excited, buzzing, everything like that, and then leading up to pre-season I was
starting to panic, thinking, the journey. I realised how far it was and nearer to
pre-season I was thinking… “Oh.” I just started to panic, big time. Come in from
training and check the traffic, what’s the route like on the way back? If I’d seen there was
40-minute delays I’d be like… He was jumping ten steps ahead
and imagining crazy situations that… I crashed once, into a tram. I was in that much of a rush,
I pulled out and didn’t even see it, see this huge tram, and it hit… LEEONA: All he was thinking was,
“I need to get home.” CHRIS: Yeah. The second year,
that’s when I started to struggle. What happened, what was going on? During some games I was just thinking, “Right, I’ll get a quick shower
after the game and I’ll get home. “I’m off tomorrow, I’m off Monday,
then I’m back in Tuesday.” And I started making
a couple of mistakes during games, and I was panicking, thinking,
“This is my schedule this week, “we’re away down in
London next week, “so I’m gonna have to travel on the Friday,
I’m not gonna get back “till 11 o’clock Saturday night,
or if there’s traffic or whatever.” So the second year it started to have
a big effect, and that’s why, the third year, when he brought
Keiren Westwood in, it was a relief that
I wasn’t gonna play. What was it about getting home? LEEONA: It was the only place he felt
like he could just be him. But then I started worrying about,
“I’m in tomorrow.” And how you’d get home, and then
you’d start worrying about the next day. Yeah. That’s when I started
noticing little things like, lock the door, check the door’s locked,
making sure, shutting the blinds
at three o’clock in the afternoon. He was like, “I just like them shut,
I just like them shut”, and I’m thinking… JASON: Trying to shut the world out. It was almost like, “I need to block
everything and everyone.” That’s exactly what it was, yeah. The anxiety was spiralling into normal life,
he’d be panicking, I’d be going somewhere –
“How are you gonna get home? “What if that taxi doesn’t turn up?
What if something happens at the airport?” You ended up in a panic attack at A&E. His heart was just racing. I’m thinking,
“It’s trivial, why are you thinking that?” I was thinking, “I should be saying these
things, I should be thinking like this”, that was my mindset and I just couldn’t
get out of that, I couldn’t get out of it. So you didn’t think you were
doing anything wrong really? No. My mind, every single minute
of every day, was just racing. They wanted me to sign again,
so after the third year, which was a relief I didn’t play much, so this was 2015, the deal was on the table,
they wanted me to stay, I was in my gym kit, I was gonna sign, walking up the stairs to sign
and suddenly just went, “No.” Left the place crying, that was it.
Left crying, drove home. And I said, “Unless I get something local,
I’m done, I’m finished playing.” Signed for Bury, didn’t want to. Signed for them,
went to Portugal pre-season and I just broke down… Rang me, absolute tears. “I’m in trouble, I need to stop playing,
I need to get some help.” I was on the rooftop. He was on the roof terrace and he’s on the
phone to me saying, “I’m on the roof terrace”, but bearing in mind he’s absolutely sobbing. I’d seen him getting
worse and worse in general, he’d completely
withdrawn himself from life, basically. He was existing, he wasn’t living at this point, he was coming in, TV was on, he wasn’t there. You could just…
He just didn’t want to do anything. The only thing I did was
walk the dog, that was it. But then I’d put a cap on,
I’d put a hoodie over… So that no-one would speak to him, anyone that did it was like
he couldn’t get away fast enough. Just didn’t want to do anything. I knew, out there in Portugal, that was it,
I knew I had to get help before it was too late. It’s funny you should say that, because
obviously my eldest lives round the corner, I used to see you all the time
walking the dog. See you all the time. Yeah, I used to go out
for hours with the dog. So when we lost Max… CHRIS: When we lost Max that added to it
as well, had him 14 years. JASON: You’ve got a loss thrown
in now as well. And we lost one of our best friends as well,
he passed away in the January. I was driving up to say goodbye to him, and
he’d died when I was about half an hour away, so I never got a chance to say goodbye. It was 2016, around February time,
so I was in a bad, bad way, real bad way. He’d go out in the car and that’s when
I’d start thinking, “Where’s he gone?
When’s he coming back?” That’s when I started to think
things like that, starting to panic. I’d think, like, by the 58 there’s a bridge, just accelerate and drive straight off it. Cos I couldn’t live with the way I was feeling, I just thought, “I can’t live like this.” JASON: What stopped you,
what was your thought process? The girls. Leeona and Lucy, every time. Every time? Every time. Some people might be a bit more
predisposed to developing depression, but what everyone agrees on is,
there’s usually some sort of trigger. Usually it’s as a result
of difficult life circumstances, but not necessarily, there are people
with what might look like very nice lives who can become very depressed. What happens is,
people fall into a trap, basically. And they start to think that, for example,
they’ve nothing to offer the world. So because they think they’ve nothing to offer
the world, they don’t offer anything. They stay away from people, people who become depressed
tend to isolate themselves. And rather than that making them feel better,
it actually starts to make them feel worse, because they start to beat themselves up
about isolating themselves and not being around their friends,
and this sort of vicious cycle takes hold. Things that feel like the most natural
coping mechanisms for them are actually the things
that keep the problem going. So for example,
if you’re anxious about something, it’s natural to want to
avoid being around it. But the more you avoid being around it,
the more anxious you become of it. Same with depression.
If you feel down and miserable and don’t feel like you can cope
with the day, so you phone in and sick and don’t,
that’s the most natural response in the world but it actually gives you more
to feel depressed about. Over a lifetime, one in two people
will develop a problem at some point. So it’s likely that one in every two people will at some point suffer
a clinical anxiety or depression. A lot more women than men
are diagnosed with depression, but that doesn’t mean that
a lot more women are depressed. What we know is,
women are more likely to come forward
and ask for help with depression. So we believe that we’re underestimating
the amount of depression suffered by men. One of the big problems we have
is male suicide. Suicide is the biggest cause
of death in the UK for men under 35. One of the reasons why we think that
happens is that men don’t seek help. After leaving Liverpool, I played for
Blackburn Rovers and then Sunderland. In 2000, my son Harry was born. My playing days were drawing to a close, and I got the chance
to move back home to Tranmere. At 37, my football was done, and so was
my relationship with my partner. My professional
and personal life was unravelling. It was like sand running through my fingers. It was the worst year of my life. Football was my safety net really. Getting up and going training, and playing, it was giving me something
that I needed at the time, because my personal life was a mess. I was not seeing this baby grow up
that I was doting on, like I said my relationship had broken down
and there was no real going back to that. Obviously contracts were up. I took it on the chin, left, went home,
and then thought, “What shall we do?” You know, the next six weeks are
very easy really, because you’re off and you have a couple of lie-ins,
then you go and watch the telly you want and do what you want and stay out, you can go for a pint with your mate
who’s a kitchen fitter and you can go out at the weekends
and have a laugh, being a single lad, and all of a sudden,
the footy players, they come back. They start pre-season
and you don’t start pre-season. The phone calls dry up
and you just think, “Wow.” And then gradually,
things start spiralling out of control. I think once you’d left Tranmere,
that’s when you became very inward. When you say “inward”, how am I acting?
Not coming around as much? You’re not going out,
you’d just be stuck in here, listening to telly. You became, for want
of a better word, a drudge. A drudge? Yeah, because that was you,
you just couldn’t pick yourself up. Everything stopped. It was,
“What am I going to do with my life now?” I was obviously falling
into a state of depression. You start doing things out of the norm,
you start acting out of character. I was living in a house on my own. So you shut the front door
and you’re rattling around in this house with a lot of time on your hands, and your thought process changes,
your attitude changes to some degree, to certain situations,
to certain things, to certain people. I think you lose direction,
but then on the flip side of it you go out the front door
and bounce out the front door and go for a drink with your mates,
or go for a coffee with your mates and you feel totally fine, but then you
go home and shut the front door again and this process would start taking over,
the way your mind starts thinking, and gradually I was like… I’d get up and get a bath, and then
I’d go downstairs, have some breakfast, then I’d think, “I’ll get in the bath again,
I’ll have another bath.” So by 12 o’clock I’d had two baths, then by
mid-afternoon I’d jump back in the bath again. And then the process started,
like, repeating itself, but in that whole time I was trying to get back
into this relationship with my ex-partner. And I was fighting to get back and have
this small child in my life, my son. And it wasn’t going well,
so there was a lot of arguing at the time and going through this break-up process,
trying-to-get-back process, trying to get this child back into my life,
and I felt that if I had this family unit then everything would be all right
and I’d have more direction. I had no football to go to, no football training, no matches to focus on,
I had nothing to focus on apart from trying to get back into
this family environment, this closeness, this co-dependency. The process was just getting
harder and harder and harder, and it was getting further and further away, and I was doing more and more things
out of character. And then I got to a point where I just thought,
“There’s nothing in my life really, “there’s nothing I’m striving to do,
I might as well just give up on it all “and it’d be easier if there was no… “I didn’t have the hassle of it all
and didn’t have those problems.” I remember driving through
the tunnel, the Mersey Tunnel. And my thought process was just a mess. I’d stopped problem-solving,
or I was doing it in a different way. I was doing it in a different way, I think. And cars were going past me,
and there’s bends and stuff, and there’s a big, long straight,
cars were coming, and I was thinking,
“If you just swing the car now, at this speed, “you’ll fly into the wall,
but everything will just hit you “and there’ll be an impact
and it will be done.” “There will be no… “No problems there, everything will just
be gone, and you won’t be a problem, “your situations won’t be a problem, you don’t
have to think about the rest of your life.” And I was thinking, “If I do it, will I have time
to see who’s in the other car?” And I was thinking, Harry, how will he
process it, being six or seven years old? And then my mum… And then… ..just thinking, like… Probably just talking about
everything that you go through, growing up and my mum always being there, and then, even being at my first Bolton game,
cleaning my boots, making sure that everything’s all right
and having food on the table, for someone to tell her
that her eldest son’s given up… his opportunity to go on with his life, and for someone to tell her
that this has happened, and then having to explain to a six-year-old, maybe what’s happened there is not right. And then I thought to myself, “If I was to
swing this car now and a car hit me, “there might be a kid in that car,
you might kill a mum.” And then all of a sudden I came out
the other side of the tunnel, and everything was bright, the light changed. And I went to my mum’s. For some reason, I went to my mum’s house. And I knocked on the door, and she opened
the door, and I just burst out crying. I just remember thinking, that’s the point.
That’s the point. You said, “Mum, I can’t do it anymore.” You sobbed, you broke down, you cried, and I said, “Just go to bed, love.” And you went to bed,
you stayed with me for two days, and I kind of knew then that you needed help. You needed to go and speak to someone. And I couldn’t give you… It’s not nice. It’s not nice to see your kids suffering. And I mean, your dream had come to an end. The next day, she drove me
to this woman’s house. Her name was Jane,
I went into her front room, it was just a normal house
in a village by mine. And you walked in, and it was like… It was only a small room full of books
and carpet, it was dead cosy, this room. Two chairs and a table. We walked in,
and I done this form, filled these things out, and she went out the room, and my mum
was in the room, then she came back in. And she said, “You’re clinically depressed.” How she knew, I don’t know. It was like 20 questions. “Do you feel like this? “What do you think about this?” It was all yes and no.
And she came in and went, “You’re clinically depressed,
and you need to stay with me.” And I think I was there for about two hours. And then, not everything comes out really,
you just… You kind of skim across the top
and just discuss little things, I think she gets to know you, and then over
the course of probably six or eight months, she starts opening boxes –
how you were shaped as a child, your thought processes, where you are
and what you’ve got to do. And she didn’t give me any answers,
she didn’t say, “Right, this is what you do.” She points you in a direction,
gives you direction. We spent a lot of time together. Talking and just discussing, and just getting
out of this place that I was in. Where I needed to focus
and how I needed to do it, and that’s what we did.
And I’d probably say six or eight months later, I stopped going to see her, and… Yeah, got some direction. I’ve seen so far how mental health
problems can affect people in sport, and after they retire. But depression can affect anyone. The story of Neil Hughes was one that shook
our club’s community nearly two years ago. Liverpool was his life too. At the age of 31, he took his own life. And for the people left behind,
their lives will never be the same again. He was a typical boisterous lad,
he loved playing out. Even from when he was first walking, he was always dribbling the ball. He first went when he was two. Took him when he was two? Yeah. And he loved it. And then he wanted
to come with me all the time. All my mates were his mates,
who I went the match with. He was the life and soul of the party
type of thing, he’d do anything for anybody. He was a great character. We went home and away, we went to Japan
for the World Club Championships, Tokyo. He had the Liverbird tattooed on his chest. He used to say, “I don’t need a bird,
I’ve got a bird on my chest.” Before every game Yozza would send a text
to me with a different song every week. It must have took him hours to type them up,
but that’s what he was like. He was the biggest Liverpool supporter
that I knew. I just want to bring in November 2016, was there anything that
you thought was not right? No. No cause for concern at all with Neil,
he was just who he was. He’d come in and go to his room. He’d always
be on his phone talking to his mates, and you could hear him laughing or whatever. We’d gone out for his grandad’s birthday, and he’d come in
and went straight up to his room. In the morning, I was going out
and I thought, “I wonder if Neil’s up.” I just shouted him, “Are you getting up?” And he said, “Yeah, I’m getting up now.” And I said, “I’ll see you later.” And I went out, and that was
the last any of us heard of him. It was my wife who picked up on it, she just said, “Neil’s late”,
and she wondered why he wasn’t in. I said, “Oh, it’s probably one his mate’s
birthdays or something like that, “and he’s gone for a pint with them.” I said, “I wouldn’t worry.” So my wife sat up. I came down early
and she said he’s still not in. So she said, “Phone the police again.”
So I did. And then they said
they’d send someone round. Then when it got to later on
in the day, I started to be concerned. By the end of that day,
there was hundreds looking for him. We were out rooting everywhere. My phone went, it was our Adam. He screamed down the phone,
“Get back to Okell Drive now. Get back.” So I jumped out the car, just screaming,
“What’s happened, what’s happened?” And Adam just said,
“He’s gone. They’ve found him. “He’s gone.” It was just absolutely devastating for us. It was just… We couldn’t come to terms
with him taking his own life. We thought, “Good God,
we thought we knew our son.” And as I say, we were all asking
each other the same question. “Do you know any reason why he’d do it?” We’re asking as a family,
and none of us had any answers. And then we were asking his friends – “Did he mention anything to you
that he was feeling… “..feeling depressed or whatever?” Because we were thinking, if he was
depressed, why didn’t we spot it? We didn’t know,
we had no inkling whatsoever. I came in here the next day,
cos I didn’t want to stay at home. I’m lucky enough I can work here. So I came in, I went and sat
in his seat in the Main Stand. And… ..the tour was on. And… The tour don’t do it now, but they used
to play You’ll Never Walk Alone every tour. So I just sat there for a bit, and… To gather my thoughts really,
there was nothing else to do. Sorry. It’s all right, mate. It hasn’t been easy at all, but you’ve got to sort
of pretend you’re leading a normal life and you’re getting on with life,
but you’re sort of trembling inside. Because it never leaves you, the feeling,
you still – I do now – persecute yourself, thinking, “Are we bad parents,
that we didn’t know?” Well, no, it’s not a case of that,
it’s just where your mind takes you. My tough time was when I was on my own,
behind closed doors. And you start thinking the things. I felt like I was running through a forest
and just couldn’t get out of this forest, everywhere I turned there
was always a problem, and then you lose the ability to
problem-solve, you just can’t figure it out. You can’t blame yourself, mate, because… Because you just don’t know. We found that our phone stopped ringing,
and people stopped coming round the house, cos we were always used to
having people here. Whether it was my son’s friends
or my daughter’s or whoever, or ours, and people stopped coming. I know when I’ve bumped into somebody,
they say, “Don’t know what to say.” And it’s an old adage, but the thing is, even if
they just came round and sat here, it would be the fact that
they’ve come to see us. It’d be a big help. I started going to this support group.
Survivors of Bereavement Through Suicide. They’re called SOBS. It sort of helped in a way,
cos you felt like you weren’t alone, other people were sharing their experiences and you realised that it wasn’t just you who was going through
what you were going through. They were going through the same things. Through that, I’ve got to meet other people who have started a bereavement counselling
for suicide victims, or the survivors, called Paul’s Place. I would implore anybody
to seek these organisations out, not just the ones I’ve just mentioned,
there’s numerous others that help people who were in Neil’s position,
who wouldn’t talk to people, that there are people who will listen. I got the flag made, which is
hanging up in the Kop every week. And as soon as them turnstiles open,
I put the flag up. My bosses know I do it, it takes me
two minutes so they don’t mind. I love looking across before
the kick-off and looking at it. When I’m singing You’ll Never Walk Alone
I’m always looking at that. His friends have been superb. They even took it a step further and they thought they’d have a Neil
remembrance day, in Reynolds Park. We were astounded at
the amount of people who were there. Over 100 people turned up at Reynolds Park. Brought all their kids, I brought my
Samba Goal from my back garden, put it up, the kids played footy, all the lads
had a big game of cricket. We shed a tear, all of us did, together. We got the bench made in memory of Neil. A couple of nights out which we’ve had with
the lads, we’ve started there on the bench. We sat there and had a couple of beers
and a laugh and a joke, and then we’ve walked down to
Woolton Village and started off our night. So…Neil’s still with us
when we go out, you know? We start there,
and we’ll have one with him, make a toast and then head off then, but… There’ll always be one missing
out of my group of mates. I will look out for people now,
my friends and other people. If I think there’s something wrong with them, “Are you OK, is everything all right?
Anything you’re not telling me?” It’s OK to not feel OK now.
You don’t have to act big and brave. The bravest ones come out and speak. I don’t want anyone to go through
what I went through. Look what he’s missing now on that pitch,
with the Reds, the way we’re playing. They’re flying, Klopp’s got them playing… We’re gonna win that league
in the next couple of years, and he’s gonna miss it,
which will break my heart. Do you know what,
I was nervous when I came. I’ve got to be honest, I was really nervous, because I can’t imagine
what you’ve been through. But I’m glad I’ve come and spoke to you, and listened to your story. I know it’s devastating, but I think
what you’ve done is unbelievably brave, I think awareness is the big thing, and… I’m just sorry for you loss.
I am, I’m so sorry, and… I’ve got no words, to be honest, I can’t… I’m just glad that I can get
the message across to people. Well, I hope I have anyway. If by listening to what I’ve said and
the experiences we’re going through, it would prevent anybody
contemplating taking their own life, I would say don’t, because the people you
leave behind are worse off than you were. Seek help, talk to people,
cos people will listen. You might not
think they will, but they will. If it can help just one person, I think I’d get great comfort
from the fact I’ve helped somebody. I just hope time helps you out, you know? Yeah. Yeah, thanks for listening. Neil’s story is a heart-breaking one,
and Peter’s message is clear – we need to talk. We need to be there for one another,
and it’s OK to seek help. Every other weekend we flock to Anfield to talk
teamsheets and tactics in packed out pubs. But do we ask other if we’re really OK? Stories like Neil’s are not uncommon
in the UK unfortunately. We all hear them, and the stats are very stark on this, 84 men every week
take their own lives. It’s the biggest killer of men aged under 35,
and I’m sure lots of us here or watching this now will be thinking,
“I know lots of men aged under 35.” 2016, I’d split up with my girlfriend at the time
and I’d been in my job for quite a few years. There wasn’t any one catalyst, but I began to
notice I didn’t quite feel myself. It was like, next to everyone’s bed
there’s probably a load of wires, headphones, phone charger, laptop charger, and you plug all them
in one day, and most times, something gets tangled, you can undo it. There’ll be a day when
they’re just annoying to undo. You pull one and it feels like
it got tighter, and that’s how I felt. And it took me too long to actually begin to want to
speak to somebody about it, I didn’t really tell anyone, and on my way
to the appointment I was thinking, “I don’t need this.”
And in the end, ultimately, what it sort of lead to for me is that I had
a period for about I’d say 10 to 12 weeks where I was going somewhere weekly
and spoke about how I was feeling. And in speaking to him, it just felt like, slowly
but surely, these knots were coming undone. I don’t know where I’d be or how I’d feel about
stuff if I hadn’t been able to do that. And it’s something I’ve picked up,
and my mates have said it since to me, but I’ve certainly said it to him,
and I do actively try and do it – I just say, “How you feeling?” And I’ll always joke about it and I’ll say, “But
I’m not just gonna take you saying ‘I’m fine.’ ” Cos I think lads, men do do that. We’ll all do that, just throwaway –
“How are you?” “I’m sound.” “I’m fine, I’m OK, you know.” I text a mate recently and said, “You’ve
been quiet in the WhatsApp group. “Everything OK? Don’t just say, ‘I’m fine.’ ” And he came back and said, “No, I am fine,
but it’s XYZ, normal, everyday stuff.” And I think that’s where
we almost need each other to be, for ourselves,
looking out for someone and thinking, “They’ve been a bit quiet,
is everything all right?” I don’t think any of us need to have
all of the answers on mental health, but we do need to know – or our mates
need to know – that we’re on their side. It’s just literally being that ally,
that sounding board, and then, where possible, guiding someone to
get more help if they need it. We can be the first port of call for people close
to us when they need us most. Doing that can make such a difference,
but what professional support is out there? Samaritans provides emotional support to anybody who’s feeling
distressed or suicidal. And it’s a listening service, so people
can contact us 24 hours a day every single day of the year, and really just talk about how they’re feeling. A lot of the time what people
say to us on a call is, they just don’t want to worry
or burden their family or friends, so they’ve kept it to themselves, and that’s where speaking
to someone like the Samaritans, somebody who you don’t know, it just gives people that little bit of space
to say what they need to say. If you do know someone and you know
their patterns of behaviour or you know how they act,
just looking to see, “Actually, I think something’s wrong here,
I think something’s not right.” And it doesn’t have to be
any kind of medical intervention, it’s just asking someone, “Are you OK?” And really just being prepared to listen. You tend to know a lot about them,
so you’ll jump in with solutions, sometimes that’s not what people need to do, they just need to talk about
what’s on their mind, and… if they keep telling you they’re OK and
you still think there’s something wrong, then we have little contact cards,
little tiny Samaritans cards that you could maybe just leave in a book,
or put it in their coat pocket, so it’s there. They might not be able to
talk to you, and that’s OK, but by you just making
that little extra effort for them, and giving them our number, then maybe
hopefully they can talk to us. And then maybe sitting down with somebody
and looking at what other advice is available, and that could be identifying some
counselling or maybe going to see your GP, and just exploring what’s
in place to help someone. Don’t be ashamed, don’t be embarrassed,
that’s first and foremost, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Yeah, get help as quick as you can. Don’t leave it, don’t say,
“Oh, I’ll see how I feel next week.” Just do it there and then. As soon as I started speaking,
I could see a way out of it then. Whereas before, it was just down,
I was at rock-bottom. OK, thanks very much. I would like to say I really enjoyed it, but… we’re not here to enjoy it, it’s a tough chat. As I say, if it can help people,
that’s what we do it for, isn’t it? To try and help other people. First moment I saw her, I told my mate
that night, “I’ll marry this girl.” You just know. I didn’t say that, but…! I just knew, I just knew. Apart from them four years,
we have a laugh, don’t we? Yeah. It was a tough four years,
but we’re here to tell the tale, and that’s… the best thing about it. Yeah. You know, now, I’m married,
beautiful wife, two fantastic kids. Harry’s 17, my eldest,
good relationship with him, direction. I always feel like, if I look back on my life, and look back at things, she was always
there, she never let me down. I think if my kids would say that
about my legacy, I’d be happy. So maybe that’s the best thing I can say. Maybe if things had been different… ..maybe I might not have
been able to tell the tale, but maybe I’ve got to thank her for her role. Yeah. We’re now realising that depression is
a real thing, it’s a thing that causes suicide, it’s a thing that’s being looked
upon scientifically, heavily. But it’s very difficult
when you’re in that position, to say to yourself, “I’m at this point.” I know when I get down
and when things aren’t going right, I notice the signs,
and my process now is different, the way I analyse things
and the way I think about things, and if I get in a certain situation,
I can sort that out. But there’s people out there
who don’t know how to do it and there’s people out there
who don’t know the signs. So when someone is trying
to give you help or advice, then take it, don’t think that
you can do it all on your own. It was Neil’s first European match,
it was against Auxerre. There was only 23,000 there. Had he done his homework? Erm… JASON LAUGHS I’m not sure he did. His mum will have made sure he did it. But, yeah, he absolutely loved
going to the match. I couldn’t sneak out the house without him! He was a fixture by my side. Carry on going the game.
Carry on going the match. I think it’ll help you. And hopefully we win
the league this year, and if we do, you know, maybe it’s a sign. Oh, yeah. Well, I always look up to Neil,
and pray, to get one in for us. He’ll be looking down. Yeah. All right, well done. – Thanks, Jason.
– Well done, mate. Yeah. We’ve got to understand
that it is OK to open up, it is OK to tell people
you’ve got your problems. People can be in the worst place
and no-one will know. And I think if you can try and pick up
on the signs, and maybe say to your mate, “Are you OK?”,
that’s OK as well, that’s OK to do. And I think there’s got to be
an awareness from both sides that there are people there to help you,
but on the flip side, you’ve got to be there when
someone asks you for help. That’s vitally important.
And I think if we start doing that, then we’ll go a long way
into breaking the stigma down. Samaritans is available 24 hours a day
for anyone struggling to cope. They provide a safe place to talk
where calls are free and confidential. The number to call is… Visit the website at… Or email…

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