With the football world and general public rallying around Aaron Lennon, Jason McAteer has provided a remarkable insight into professional players' battle with depression.
Lennon's own fight with mental health issues reached the public domain last night, when it emerged he had been detained by police under the UK's Mental Health Act near Manchester last weekend. McAteer, who opened up regarding his own problems on The Late Late Show last year, wrote an extremely candid piece in the The Telegraph on Wednesday in which he admitted he once considered suicide.
He also explained in significant detail how the notion that a highly-paid professional should be immune to such issues - as peddled by both the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror in their callous treatment of Lennon's story - is an outdated misconception, and revealed how the pressure to perform as a footballer can have a crippling effect on one's mental health.
In a frightening but superbly informative piece, McAteer wrote:
Where the lack of understanding comes in is when you read people cynically commenting about footballers earning £55,000 a week, asking how can they be depressed?
It does not matter how privileged your lifestyle, how much money you have or how you dress. This disease can impact on anybody. You don’t just wake up one day suffering. It is a process.
It is a build of pressures and stresses, both internal and external. In a high profile industry like football you feel that need to perform, often three times a week, and nowadays the scrutiny is even greater than when I was a player. It is not just backpages but social media. You are scrutinised for everything on and off the field.
"Even transfer fees can contribute it. If someone is signed for millions of pound it has nothing to do with the player, but if he does not perform and justify that outlay the criticism is fierce. You have to be good every week. Few seem to consider what impact that can have on the esteem or state of mind of a professional if performances do not meet expectations and they are abused for it.
When I was 28 I was once dropped for Liverpool for a Merseyside derby. I swear it felt like my entire world had ended. You think of the modern players who are built up to be the next big thing, then the careers do not quite go the way they thought as youngster. That is a lot to be dealing with mentally.
You can only hope when the cry for help comes – which in the most extreme cases involves considering suicide – it is not too late. I was lucky. Once I hit that low point after my retirement in 2007 I had the opportunity to get that help.
You can - and should - read the full article on The Telegraph.
If you're in distress, you can contact Samaritans at 116 123, Childline at 1800 66 66 66, or visit Mental Health Ireland for more information.