Former Manchester City manager Mark Hughes has called for a greater awareness of suicide amongst footballers, and that managers should become ‘suicide aware.’
Hughes, who managed City between June 2008 and December 2009, said it was ‘vitally important that young players right through football get the support they need.’
“A lot of clubs have provision of player welfare and have actual departments that address that. But clearly, the resources of all clubs aren’t the same,” the former City boss said after it was announced that the League Managers’ Association would be joining Greater Manchester’s Health and Social Care Partnership in order to raise awareness of the Shining A Light on suicide campaign.
“It’s difficult for football clubs. There are lot of emotions and disappointments, more disappointments than successes if we’re honest, and it’s about being able to recognise when somebody’s struggling with those disappointments when maybe they’re losing their job.”
Hughes stated managers could become suicide aware through a 20-minute training course and that they must understand how their decisions can affect players. “I’ve had team-mates that have struggled with mental health and lost their lives to suicide and it’s very difficult, but this campaign is really important.
“Certainly, we have an opportunity given the role we have [as managers] within clubs to help.
“We need greater empathy, and more understanding of how we cast the shadows sometimes as managers when we make decisions. We can all improve our emotional intelligence, and, if we do that, then we’re going to be best served in recognising when people are struggling.”
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 49 and women aged 20-34 in the UK, and it is ten years ago in November that Hughes’ Wales team-mate Gary Speed committed suicide at his home, a death which shook the football world to its core.
Former Leyton Orient manager Martin Ling has previously made known his struggles with mental health issues, and it is something that LMA chief executive Richard Bevan has been taking huge steps to address. “It’s about ‘don’t do it on your own’, making sure that managers and coaches have the right toolkit to survive and thrive in the game.
“We focus on providing mentors, personal development and support. That’s one of the lessons that Martin has helped us learn and at the LMA we have over 50 professionals that support managers and coaches, so they don’t feel on their own.”
If you or anyone you know is suffering from mental health issues, please do not suffer in silence. Reach out to someone you trust or contact any of the below:
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (9am to midnight, every day of the year)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
It’s ok to ask for help.