Football Crazy. Football Mad.
This is the week that Everton footballer Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act. You might have read about it. It goes without saying that we wish him all the best for his recovery, but that also goes for everyone who is living under that piece of legislation right now.
Aaron isn't the first, nor will he be the last man, famous footballer or otherwise, to have mental health problems. To be honest, it amazes me that all of them aren't living with something that gets them sectioned.
I love football. I'm a Nottingham Forest fan, I'm sure you are too (I mean isn't everyone?). I don't get to as many matches as I'd like, but I follow them as much as I can. I'm nowhere near as fanatical as many other supporters, but then isn't that part of the problem?
These footballers are revered and reviled in equal measure. They play well and they're Gods. Play poorly and they are lambasted on the terraces, across social media, on radio phone-in shows and on football forums all over the world. How can anyone be expected to live with that rollercoaster of emotions and keep a level head? It's not like it's remote either.
People are not shy in letting them know how they feel. Especially if it's less than acceptable. They're abused in public and online. Think about that for a minute.
Famous footballers might have the money and the fame (neither of which should matter to their mental health), but they're just people. If you have a bad day at the office, you're not verbally abused across the internet and in the street on your way home. If you get that report done on time, your name isn't cheered across the terraces or in pubs up and down the country. You just go on with your day, either slightly content or a little dismayed by what you'd achieved. It won't make a massive difference to your mental health in the long-, or short-term. Footballers aren't that fortunate.
There were too many articles when news broke that talked about the money he earns, the transfer fees he's attained and the England caps he's collected. Why is any of that relevant? Not one of those things stop Aaron, or anyone, from the effects of mental ill health. Money isn't a mental flak jacket, caps don't protect your brain from life's chaotic nature and a transfer fee won't give you piece of mind.
I liken it to the music industry, in particular the musical cesspool that is the X-Factor. They take people from a fairly normal run-of-the-mill life and overnight surround them with cameras, fans, money, journalists and the good, bad and ugly of the music industry. How are they supposed to cope with that? I'm sure it's exciting, but I'm also convinced it's terrifying too. It'll be quite a ride, but I hope they can get off on their own terms. They rarely seem to.
No-one, other than those directly impacted by Aaron's plight, will know the circumstances around it and we may never know. That's OK. We don't need to know, but we might need to look at the system he's now part of.
According to the Care Quality Commission, if you are a black man in Britain, you are 17x more likely to be diagnosed with a serious mental health condition and 6x more likely than a white man to be an inpatient at a mental health unit. Detention rates under the Mental Health Act are 2.2x higher for people of African origin and 4.2x higher for people of Caribbean origin than the average. Why is that?
It's great to see people rallying around him and giving him their best wishes, but it's only one of many people in that particular boat. If it gets people talking, then great, but these things continue to happen when we're not seeing them in the news. Andy Johnson is donating 10p to Mind for every retweet one particular tweet of his gets. Nice gesture, but why not give it to Wirral Mind. Something that will directly impact on Aaron's fanbase or to Everton's Community projects? It would make a much bigger impact to that, than National Mind. Just a thought.
Sufficed to say, we wish Aaron all the best. We wish everyone detained all the best.