By Glenys Furness
Football is a very social sport, you can watch it alone or you can go to matches and watch it live. Either way football or sport in general can, for some, be a positive outlet to help those who live with mental health issues like depression. Speaking personally, a friend of mine who is a big Bristol City fan does suffer from depression, we’ll call him Simon.
Simon had recently lost his job after over 10 years in the same company; he had very little money and was finding life difficult. He had also recently seen his dad rushed into hospital and had friends he had borrowed money from demanding it back.
Simon would often describe how he was feeling; he was down, depressed, not wanting to get out of the house or on some days not even get out of bed. He found normal daily life a grind. Having no job and worrying about his dad was taking its toll on him. Simon was in a vicious cycle of depression. He thought he couldn’t do things and that the whole world was against him. This also led to mood swings, which led back to feeling down and a lack of self-worth.
Knowing Simon as I did, I tried to help, re-assuring him that he was not worthless, that things would turn around but if I’m totally honest, just being there as a friend was something he needed more than the chatter.
I wanted to help Simon but I knew it would be a long process, so I started with something small. Knowing he was a Bristol City fan and a season ticket holder, I managed to get him to buy a ticket to their next home game. Football is the one thing that got Simon out of bed. He would watch matches on the TV and if there was a big match on at his local pub, he would go there to watch it.
Football took his mind off things. Whilst he was busy supporting his team, shouting encouragement to the players or criticising a poor refereeing decision Simon was happy, he wasn’t thinking of what he took to be the negatives in his life.
Every time Simon posted on social media the posts would either be about football or about how hard he was finding things. The difference between the posts though was striking.
Whenever Simon posted about football, it was about how he was looking forward to the match either on TV or going in person, how proud he was of his team when they won, or how they should have played differently if they lost.
Football was something to keep Simon’s focus away from his depression. Once he got out of the house and to the match, he met up with fellow City fans, enjoyed a few beers and yelled, clapped and sung songs that helped bring joy to Simon’s life. If he didn’t have these support networks or the pillar of football to rely upon, he would have been sat at home, socially isolated and be in danger of falling into those mental traps that made him feel worthless.
Although not a cure, football is certainly helping Simon. The only time he has missed a match recently was when he had the flu. I’ve seen a change in Simon over this period and although he still does feel depressed some days, on match-days he gets involved with the entire experience and this has definitely brought him out of his shell more.
Simon’s social media posts have also changed fairly recently. There are many more posts about looking forward to travelling to watch his team and less about feeling that nobody likes him. This can only be a good thing. Travelling to watch his beloved Reds play whenever the fixtures fall is helping Simon to enjoy life more and find an outlet to make living with depression that much more manageable. Like anyone who lives with mental health issues, he will still have good days and bad days but thanks to his football team, the good days are starting to outweigh the bad ones now.