Former England and Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland is using his experiences of battling depression to encourage boys and young men to open up about their mental health.
The football star, 40, has spoken openly about the mental health problems that plagued the final years of his career, which led to a brief stay at a rehabilitation centre in 2019.
Chris said he started to struggle with his mental health back in 2012, not long after he left Wigan Athletic to join Sheffield Wednesday.
Chris added: “I decided that enough was enough, and after covering it up for so long and trying to gloss over the issues, it reached a crisis point where there was no other option but to get help. That was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
No longer ashamed or embarrassed of his struggles, Chris hopes that by sharing his own harrowing story, he can encourage the next generation to speak out and seek help.
And he has now teamed up with Edge Hill University and St Bede’s Catholic High School in Ormskirk, Lancashire, to launch Make Talk Your Goal.
The campaign will see leading speakers from the world of sport and the arts promote conversations around mental health among boys and young men.
A team of researchers from the University will go on placement at St Bede’s to evaluate the impact of the programme on its students, before it is rolled out to schools across the country.
Chris said: “Make Talk Your Goal wants to reach out to young people, particularly young lads because we know that men often don’t speak out as much as women, and make them feel comfortable to talk about their mental health. ”
Chris recalls being approached by the chaplain at St Bede’s, near his home in Lancashire, to develop a unique mental health programme for their students after several boys reported experiencing mental health problems.
After sharing his own story with a group of students, the feedback he received has led to Chris extending the programme for all boys at the school.
Dr Bridget Mawtus, a Lecturer in Children, Young People and Families at Edge Hill, will lead the research evaluation of the programme.
Dr Mawtus said: “It’s been eye-opening to witness the impact the programme has had on the students at St Bede’s, particularly because we know that young men are significantly more likely to suffer extreme consequences of poor mental health."
Who to contact if you or someone you know needs help:
Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at email@example.com
Papyrus offer support for children and young people under the age of 35 over the phone on 0800 068 41 41 between 9am – midnight every day of the year. If you would rather text you can do so on 07786 209697 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org