'˜You don't need to suffer alone,' says PFA chair Humphreys

Ritchie Humphreys says the Professional Footballers Association are equipped to support any current or former players going through mental health problems.
Oxford United vs Chesterfield - Ritchie Humphreys - Pic By James WilliamsonOxford United vs Chesterfield - Ritchie Humphreys - Pic By James Williamson
Oxford United vs Chesterfield - Ritchie Humphreys - Pic By James Williamson

Speaking on World Mental Health Day, the Chesterfield player-coach and PFA chairman, expressed his hope that no one in the game would opt to suffer alone.

And there are a number of avenues open to footballers to help them talk about their problems.

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Humphreys knows first hand that it can be all too easy for players to hide what’s really going on in their lives.

“I played with Andrew Jordan at Hartlepool and didn’t know at the time he was suffering from mental health issues,” he said.

“He did a talk with our scholars last season and I went along and listened in. It was very hard hitting.

“I didn’t know even though I shared a changing room with him for two years.

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“I didn’t know it was going on and we were team-mates – it just shows.”

The 38-year-old says the PFA and society in general can take away any perceived stigma attached to mental health by talking freely about it.

“It’s more and more talked about in society and in our industry,” he said.

“One in four people will be affected at some stage in their lives at any age or time.

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“It can affect anyone, in any walk of life, any job. It’s an illness and we’re there to support members through it.

“For footballers or anyone in our industry, we’ve all got a part to play and hopefully we can help by speaking about it.

“The PFA is set up to reach out to people or have them reach out to us.”

With 54,000 current and former players to consider, the PFA has put strategies in place in order to offer support when it comes to issues like anxiety and depression.

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Humphreys said: “There’s a 24/7 helpline that is totally confidential, no one will know about that conversation apart from the person making the call and the counsellor.

“We have 70 full-time counsellors around the country.

“We do some work with Sporting Chance clinic for behavioural problems, some of our members go there to get help.

“There’s also a player welfare team, working under Michael Bennett, they’re on call day to day.

“And there are former players speaking out a lot now, like Leon McKenzie and Shane Nicholson, doing talks to try and help, speaking to young footballers to tell their stories.

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“We have 4,000 current members and 50,000 who we call ex members, but they’re still members of the PFA for life.

“From 16 and 17-year-olds just joining and starting their careers after leaving school right up to 80-year-old ex players, we’re there to help.”