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Hunty's Column: An Interview With Chief Executive Of Mental Health Football Association (Part 1)

Let's talk about mental health.

I have mental health issues — there you go, I said it! Took a few seconds, just like ordering a coffee or a pint at the Madejski Stadium.

People live with it, and others make life better for others with it. One of whom I had the absolute pleasure of talking to recently was Colin Dolan, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Football Association (previously Mental Health Football UK).

Why am I sharing his story?

Because Colin, like you or I, loves football. And if his story inspires one person to get the help they need, then it's been worth it!

So how did the journey start Colin?

"It goes back to my teens growing up in Glasgow I always knew I was different and had to act a certain way to fit in including drinking and fighting. I had mood swings and made silly excuses not to go to work."

"When locked up in a police cell, I actually enjoyed the solitude".

Colin went undiagnosed for a number of years, his manic phases included a spell when photography was the only thing that mattered.

"I didn't care about spending. I bought all the books and the equipment. I took my camera everywhere, and then in six weeks lost interest as quickly as I found it."

"In my mid-20s I tried to take my life. I took pills. Luckily the hospital staff saved me. I managed to cover it up and was allowed to go home with no follow up," — something that still angers Colin to this day.

Two marriages, two divorces, five engagements and umpteen partners followed in the bipolar approach to relationships and a move to Liverpool was an escape. But drugs and drink was the non-prescribed medication for a lot of people with undiagnosed bipolar.

In 1998 another severe depression struck and Colin planned his suicide for months, even to make sure that others didn't see him damaged.

He rang friends to say his goodbyes but luckily one came round and found him.

"This should have been a wake up call, but this was just another day in the life of Colin Dolan."

Anxiety also plays a massive part in Colin's life. Out of the blue, even when watching footy on the box. "I can be crippled by an attack that leaves me agitated, can't speak properly, sad, weak and vulnerable."

How does he cope? Like a lot of us Colin is a brilliant actor to cover up what is going on and joked that he should be up for an Oscar.

Many men with mental health problems self harm, something that Colin is still dealing with even after 20 years.

"Cigarette burns, when I have suicidal thoughts or in deep depression, it's a release of pressure."

Colin was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the late 1990s.

Does it mean life is easier when you are finally diagnosed? To be honest, no. There are still a number of other factors to take into account but you can still make a massive impact on others.

Find out more about how Colin is battling his mental health problems in Part Two.

If you want to find out more about social inclusion programmes in your area, please do not hesitate to contact Colin on Facebook "Mental Health Football Association", visit their website, or follow them on Twitter @soccer_4_all.