Football and coronavirus: PFA study finds 22% feel depressed or considered self-harm

The Duke of Cambridge helped launch the Football Association’s Heads Up mental health campaign in February

Depression and thoughts of self-harm have affected more than a fifth of current and former footballers surveyed by the players’ union during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) spoke to 262 members between mid-April and mid-May to assess the impact of the crisis on them.

It found 57 people (22%) felt depressed or had considered harming themselves.

Among current players, that figure was 6%.

Regular feelings of nervousness or anxiety were reported by 72% of the sample.

The data showed 69% were worried about their career or livelihood, while 9% were experiencing difficulties with damaging addictive habits.

“We have got a number of players who are living from pay cheque to pay cheque and this is having a real impact on them emotionally,” said PFA director of player welfare Michael Bennett.

“Also health issues – if we do go back to the season, can it work? Will it work? What about my family? All those sort of ‘what if’ questions kept coming up.

“From the former players, it was questions about employment. A lot of them are self-employed, coaches, taxi drivers and stuff like that. They were having emotional issues because of the financial impact that they couldn’t work.”

In the first quarter of this year, 299 players had accessed support, compared with 653 in the whole of 2019, the union said.

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