Former Sheffield Wednesday Ladies' player speaks out and calls for more action from GPs following suicide attempt
A former Sheffield Wednesday Ladies footballer who is currently recovering from a recent suicidal overdose, says ‘more needs to be done’ to support people struggling with mental health problems.
Caroline Elwood-Stokes is probably best known for her midfield position on the pitch, playing at clubs including Sheffield Wednesday Ladies FC and Sheffield United Ladies FC.
Her career as a successful football player and a coach in the mid to late 90s was shortly disrupted due to mental health issues.
Caroline, who says it happened ‘abruptly’ said: “I was not able to face football, I couldn’t even bear to hear the word and I went into a massive spiral of depression, so severely that I was self harming, taking over doses and planning my own death. Basically, if I couldn’t play football, I wanted to be dead.”
It took many sessions of bereavement counselling and years of antidepressants in order to come to terms with the loss of her career.
Having been diagnosed with chronic depression, borderline personality disorder and psycho sexual dysfunction disorder and also survived several suicide attempts - the latest being in January 2020 - the 40-year-old believes mental health in football needs to be taken more seriously.
Caroline founded Footballs awareness of mental health - or FAMH - an organisation that provides support to players, coaches and managers in football, who may be suffering, or have suffered with, mental health issues.
Now also an author, she explains how compulsory mental health first aid training ‘could prevent the type of situations that have affected Gary Speed, Darren Eadie, Dean Windass and Paul Gascoigne’.
According to FAMH, 88 male footballers and two female players have taken their own lives since the early 1900s.
Sheffield-born Caroline believes it is an urgent situation.
There is still a gender bias in suicide rates today so she is campaigning for all GPs to introduce quarterly mental health check ups for male patients.
She added: ''I have been suffering now for 23 years and more needs to be done. My GP is amazing but when he's not available, there is no one or no where to go to.''