Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Andrew Flintoff, Dean Windass & the Mental Health of Men
Watching Andrew Flintoff's programme on depression in sport last week was both moving and encouraging. As I watched I thought that social attitudes to men's mental health might be changing. How refreshing that sporting heroes like Flintoff were willing to talk openly about their own experiences of depression. It was the kind of reaction I'd hoped for following the very sad death of the Wales manager, Gary Speed, last year. Other sportsmen have been willing to share their experiences, most notably the footballer and broadcaster Stan Collymore. Recently ex-footballer Dean Windass has spoken frankly about his depression. Windass said that to the outside world he appeared happy and successful but in reality he'd cried every day for the last two years and had recently attempted suicide twice. In an excellent Guardian article here Ally Fogg writes passionately about the issue of men and mental health. He points out that boys are coached from an early age not to cry or show distress: 'Never show weakness, never show fragility and above all, never let them see your tears'. So we shouldn't be surprised that men become skilled at appearing happy when their lives are in turmoil or that men are unlikely to seek help for emotional problems. So, with suicide rates amongst men worryingly high - especially amongst young men - Andrew Flintoff's programme must be welcomed as another step towards the day when men can acknowledge without stigma that they are struggling and ask for help.