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Mental Health & Football by Ian Carpenter

Who am I?

I am the D-Line Coach with the London Warriors Senior Men’s team. I was a member of the coaching staff in 2014 and have been full-time with the Warriors since April 2018.

What am I doing?

I will be completing a 12-hour nonstop, Dawn to Dusk hike through the Scottish Highlands on Saturday, October 12th to raise awareness and funds for Mind: The Mental Health Charity.

Why am I walking?

Mental health is important regardless of who you are. Sporty or not, it affects everyone. Even if it has not impacted you directly, it probably has impacted someone you know, care about or love.

I have had my own personal struggles with depression and addiction and know many others who have dealt with similar situations. I am walking to raise awareness and remove the stigma of mental health challenges in hopes that more people will receive proper care, earlier so that return to a happier, healthier life.

I am asking that anyone who can, please donate to my JustGiving page. If you cannot afford to donate, please share this on your socials!

What is Mind: The Mental Health Charity, who is running The Dawn to Dusk Event and where can I find more information?

Mind is a charity focused on ensuring everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect. In 2017/18, Mind spent £25.8m in total delivering our charitable work (73p of every £1 raised)

The Mind Hike: Dawn to Dusk event is being run by Charity Challenge, an excellent resource to help deliver fundraising activities for charities.

Mental health and football: My experience (short)

I’ve always loved football (pardon my American parlance). As a kid I would sit in my room and create playbooks, play football any chance I got, and dominate a Madden Dynasty mode for hours on end! It was my outlet.

I played football from the age 7 until 20, my sophomore year of college. I was battling for a back up spot and in our final preseason scrimmage had my knee blown out when a very large human roll up on the outside of my leg. It went pop, I went down. It wasn’t pretty.

While the team doctors were prepared to medicate and rehab me, I knew my career was over. That autumn, I quit the sport I love, teary-eyed and snotty-nosed. The team, the games and comradery were all gone in a flash but the physical pain remained along with the raw emotion of a dream disappeared.

I’ve dealt with depression my entire life but fell into deep depression when my playing career ended. I had also been using various substances to help manage my pain through my playing career so then, with no drug testing or perceived consequences, I felt free to use as ‘required’.

From that point forward, my physical and mental health, decision-making and wellbeing snowballed in a negative direction. I was making dangerous choices with little thought given to consequences. I just wanted to feel better and distract myself from the physical and emotional pain I was going through. It worked for awhile but eventually I found my ‘bottom’; the point where you are lucky enough to wake up the next day and realise you need to make some changes. Luckily, I had people who stood by my side, supported me to get help and got me back on my feet.

I am choosing to share this with you today so you know:

  • You are not alone
  • Help is available
  • And that you can come back from whatever it is you are going through

Football has been a great source of pride, joy and fulfillment in my life and it alone is not responsible for any of my depression and subsequent decisions.

However, we must appreciate that we as football players are more at risk of developing mental health problems because of the damage our bodies and brain take. Living with daily pain is physically and emotionally stressful. Chronic stress is known to change the levels of stress hormones and neurochemicals found within your brain and nervous system; these can affect your mood, thinking and behavior.

If we can accept that and support each other to address mental health early and often in our community, our sport will only get stronger, safer and more successful. We need to encourage each other to seek professional support in and out of season to ensure we are addressing our mental and physical challenges equally.

The Britball community is an outstanding group of intelligent, dedicated, passionate football fans and I look forward to continuing this dialogue to improve the state of mental health around the league.

Thank you in advance to all who share, support and donate to this cause!

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