It was reported in January 2012 that Leeds United defender Andy O’Brien was to resume training after receiving treatment for depression. In November 2011 he had refused to play in a match against Bolton, which led to his being disciplined. It was only later that it transpired that he had been suffering from depression at the time.
Interestingly, back in June 2011 (before the situation with Andy O’Brien), Leeds United Football Club had announced its support for the ‘Love Your Mind’ campaign. The Leeds United squad boarded the ‘Love Your Mind’ bus to kick off the Leeds leg of the bus tour around the country and had supported Leeds Mind for some time by fundraising for the charity and helping to stamp out the stigma and discrimination experienced by so many people with mental health problems. This goes to show how difficult it can be to recognise mental illness in people; despite being aware of mental health conditions even the managers and players at Leeds United weren’t able to spot mental illness in their ranks.
The story of Andy O’Brien is another reminder that depression and other forms of mental illness can affect anyone, even famous people whose fame and fortune so many of us covet. Other famous people have hit the headlines with reports of mental health problems, including Catherine Zeta Jones, Emma Thompson, Mel Gibson, Elton John, Marcus Trescothik and Frank Bruno.
Nobody is exempt from becoming mentally ill and it is estimated that one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives[i]. Yet mental illness is still a taboo subject to a large degree, which is failing those who suffer from mental health problems. More needs to be done to support people who are suffering from mental illness and put an end to stigma and discrimination.
There is good evidence to suggest that being out of work is detrimental to a person’s mental health (see the Royal College of Psychiatrists website for more information) and the benefits of keeping valued employees at work are obvious from an organisational perspective. That’s why free, professional help is available for employers/line managers on employee mental (and physical) health issues from the Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44.
[i] The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report, 2001