• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Oxford United fan’s view on mental health support in football and armed forces


Aug 23, 2022

We are giving Oxford United fans the chance to share their views on the club every Thursday this season. This week, Andy Wilmer asks you to consider a different kind of support.

‘YOU'LL be ok’. ‘We all go through rough patches’. ‘Just give it time’.

These are some of the responses when men bring up mental health concerns. The truth is, those replies do not help and can sometimes make things worse.

Given my own experience with mental health issues and, as an ex-serviceman, the shared challenges of leaving the armed forces and professional football, I wanted to discuss this in more detail with the hope of helping even one person who may be struggling.

READ MORE: Oxford United legend backs armed forces supporters' group

Playing football and being in the military are arguably male-dominated jobs. Men in the military are considered brave, macho and made of tough stuff. Footballers are also stereotyped as being free of worry because they earn a decent wage.

But serving and veteran males in the armed forces are still taking their own lives, as are playing and retired professional footballers.

It shows gaps remain in the support provided in those industries.

I have spoken to Oxford United legend James Constable on several occasions since his career ended and it is apparent that the support is not there when players leave the game.

It is much like the military, where the resettlement and transitional support given is the bare minimum.

Mental health issues can affect men whether they are at the happiest time of their life or at rock bottom.

READ MORE: Joey Beauchamp – the local boy who became a legend

In February, Oxford United legend Joey Beauchamp took his own life.

When I found out he had died, I watched an episode of The Ox Files on YouTube, where Joey and people from the club reflected on the 1997/98 season.

It was clear he was not in a good place. Work was playing on his mind and watching some of his goals brought about very little emotion, if any.

I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have had extensive training on how to spot the signs that people are struggling.

Showing little joy or interest in things is one of the key indicators of depression and stress and, having suffered with both, it is not a nice place to be.

If nothing else, this article might make a difference to someone’s personal life. It might even be read by someone from the military or football world that wants to mitigate the risk of men taking their own lives.

The best advice I can give is talk. If someone asks you how you are and you are not great, say so.

A problem shared is a problem halved and in some instances it is the first step to getting help.

If you ask someone how they are, make sure you take a minute to delve into the response.

If they are irritable or quiet, if they are short-tempered or not hitting deadlines at work, find out why.

Stress, or even a low mood for a short time can lead to a much bigger problem. Men are human, we have feelings and problems.

We just don’t talk about them as openly as others might.