Burnley winger Aaron Lennon: "Footballers have spoken to me about mental health issues"
Burnley FC winger, Aaron Lennon, has said that other professional footballers have spoken to him about mental health issues and that he is sure there are other Premier League players who are living with depression.
Speaking at the launch of Burnley FC in the Community's Schools’ Mental Well-being Project, which has put a trained Psychological Well-being Practitioner in every Burnley secondary school in and in two schools in Pendle in order to help students with mental health issues, Lennon reiterated the importance of talking to others regarding mental health.
"We need to break the taboo," said Lennon, who in 2017 whilst playing for Everton was detained by police under the Mental Health Act due to concerns for his welfare but who has since made a "100%" recovery. "I was always trying to help other people, so when it was me who needed the help, I found that difficult.
"All I knew was looking after my physical self, so when I had my difficult spell, I wasn't sure what to do or who to speak to," Lennon added. "I don't really ask for help, so that's why it got to where it did. It was a gradual thing; I probably didn't realise until it was way too late. You isolate yourself. Family members would ask if I was okay and I'd just say 'yeah' when I wasn't."
Agreeing that many may find it hard to believe that super-rich professional footballers doing what they love for a living can struggle with mental health concerns, Lennon said that changing attitudes in the sport are helping but that there's still a long way to go.
"I think [football is more accepting of mental health issues]," he said. "Other players have come out and spoke which can only be a good thing because there probably are some players who don't want to talk about it. Hopefully it can open the door for others: I've spoken to a couple of players who have approached me.
"I'm not one of those people who would ask for help [but] I had a lot of help; I think you can recover from these issues if you seek help when you need it," continued Lennon, who joined Burnley in January last year. "Everyone is different; some people will keep it to themselves, but for me, talking is one of the keys.
"When I started speaking to people, I improved so much," he said. "From the moment I spoke to my therapist - within 10 minutes - I knew he could help which was massive. You learn a lot about yourself - I needed the help and thankfully I got it. I'm in a good place now."
Currently sidelined with a knee injury, Lennon said that he stared running again on Monday of this week and is hoping to feature again for Sean Dyche's side before the end of the season, saying: "I just want to get back playing. I've loved [being at Burnley] - from the moment I got here, the lads, everyone to do with the football club, have been great for me.
"I [have a smile on my face] most days," Lennon adds with a laugh. "I'm really enjoying myself."