Burnley’s Aaron Lennon hopes his openness about mental health issues have helped normalise the subject among professional football players.
Lennon was detained under the UK’s Mental Health Act in May 2017 over concerns about his wellbeing, during his time at Everton.
The 31-year-old is confident the worst of the stress-related illness he was suffering from is behind him, and now hopes to be a role model for his peers.
“There’s probably a lot of footballers who don’t want to come and speak about it but it’s just normal,” Lennon said. “There’s going to be spells where you don’t feel so great and there’s going to be spells where you do feel great.
“Hopefully it opens the door for people to say, ‘OK, I’m not feeling good.’ There’s so much help out there and hopefully I can be an example that you might be going through a tough time but you can get back to where you want to be, enjoying football, enjoying life again.”
Lennon has been a reinvigorated figure since moving to Burnley in January, thriving under the positive environment Sean Dyche has helped cultivate.
“Touch wood, I’ve been really good since. You learn a lot about yourself during those periods,” Lennon said. “I had to take a look at myself, but I’ve got a great family, great friends and the clubs I’ve been at have been fantastic.
“Everyone’s different. I can see why people might think it’s a constant battle. I feel great, it doesn’t cross my mind. You do look back and say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I was in that place.”
Meanwhile, Dyche has welcomed a change in attitude towards the subject of mental health, praising footballers for openly attempting to handle the psychological demands of profession.
“It was the ‘get on with it’ mentality when I was playing, and we all know that’s changed now,” the Burnley manager said.
“There’s way more support out there. I think players have got more belief in the system now, there’s a deeper care and attention and understanding of the challenges.
“I have nothing but admiration for players. I think it’s an all-time high of demand.