Burnley-born ex-England goalkeeper opens up about injury struggles and praises football's response to mental health
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The one-time Burnley season ticket holder, who is enjoying a career in the media as a pundit for the BBC and BT Sport, recently sat down with Nuffield Health, the Official Health and Wellbeing Partner of the England teams, to discuss the debilitating injuries she had to overcome as a player and the impact that they had on her mental health.
“[Mental health] is definitely recognised more nowadays,” she said, having suffered with several knee injuries and a torn cruciate ligament during her playing days.
"It was really hard when I went through my injury because I felt like I was just farmed off back home and barely anyone was in touch.
"When I was involved in England and when St George's Park became involved, that was the chance to go to a residential place and feel looked after [and as though they are] caring for the whole individual, not just the broken part of your body.
“I can see how easy it is for people's mental health to take a huge nosedive [when going through an injury] because it's not just about feeling the pain in your body, [for me] it was about the, ‘what am I now I'm not a footballer?’
“It's so lonely when you're injured. It takes a lot of psychology to be able to really stay motivated and to stay on track because there are times when you think, is it worth it?
"Now that I’ve finished football I’ve had the chance to reflect on how football has helped build up my toolbox of mental resilience that I’ve got.
A recent survey conducted by Nuffield Health found that nearly a fifth of people (16%) would be too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help with any mental health problems they experienced, while one in 10 (13%) still worry about being judged or discriminated against.
With The FA, Nuffield Health are united in their belief that good health is about the mind as well as the body – feeling good and surrounding ourselves with the best support network means that we can go on and achieve more of the things that we want to in life.
Emotional Wellbeing Lead, Gosia Bowling, believes that mental health is something that needs to be protected and enhanced, and not just treated when problems occur.
She said: “As a society we need to shift the conversation away from a medically-led model of mental illness, towards an experience-led, 360 approach that encourages people to think about the link between their life environment, physical and emotional health. This will facilitate conversations using language that everyone can relate to.
“Learning to listen can be a really powerful tool that anyone can practice. Many people lack confidence in starting conversations about mental health, worrying they won’t know how to ‘fix’ the problem, but giving the person talking your complete attention can be really powerful in itself.”
Nuffield Health has emotional wellbeing clinics located in over half of its fitness and wellbeing centres, and provides online therapy via its website.
Nuffield Health is proud to be the Official Health and Wellbeing Partner of the England Teams, uniting with The FA on a joint ambition to help build a healthier nation.
As the nation’s teammate in health and wellbeing, the partnership will build on the mental and physical benefits that football brings to improve the wellbeing of individuals and communities. To find out more, visit www.nuffieldhealth.com/thefa.