German goalkeeper's suicide highlights mental health stigma
Posted Thursday 12 November 2009
As a long suffering Reading FC fan, and a keen supporter of England, the ups and downs of football are a big part of my life.
So this week's news of the suicide of Germany's goalkeeper Robert Enke is desperately sad for his family and friends, and for football supporters everywhere. Here was a player at the top of his sport who took his own life. Why?
Perhaps the words of his courageous widow give us a clue - "he was fearful he would lose Leila." Enke was depressed and desperately anxious about the consequences of his depression. He feared for his livelihood but most of all he feared that he would lose his adopted daughter. He said that he had deliberately not talked about his mental state.
Sadly, he's not alone. Time to Change, the national campaign to end the discrimination faced by people with mental health problems, found that many people fear disclosing their mental distress to employers, to authorities, even to friends and family. The fear of stigma can in turn lead to a greater sense of isolation and despair. In some tragic circumstances that in turn can lead to people choosing to take their own lives. Over 5,400 people in the UK take their lives every year.
But maybe from this tragedy of Robert Enke's suicide, some good will come. The media coverage of this has been sensitive and fair. Messageboards like the BBC's 606, where fans are not afraid to say what they think, has been sympathetic and concerned - it feels like the football community has united in its compassion for one of our own.
Perhaps the most important message has come from those who have said that it should be unacceptable that people feel they have to hide their poor mental health from others, that we as a society should be more supportive of people and bury the stigma once and for all.
For anyone out there who may be suffering in silence, Mind can help, so please get in touch with the Mind info line on 0300 123 3393.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive
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