The news of Lee Collins’ passing has shocked everyone, whether they are part of the football family or not. The idea that a 32-year-old man was in so much pain that he decided to end his life is genuinely heartbreaking and, for those of you lucky enough to not have experienced a mental health issue, hard to fathom.
Having experienced my own issues with mental health, I understand to some extent the feelings he was experiencing. Lucky for me, I made the decision to talk and open up and I’m pleased to say that, four years on, I’m very much in repair and feel the best I’ve felt.
Depression takes many forms. It affects everyone who experiences it in very, very different ways and forms a personal response to the specific environment and events that person is in and experiencing at the time. One of the most difficult things is to admit there is a problem in the first place. Once that admission is passed, the healing process can begin and practical plans can be put in place by your family, friends and health care professionals to help you begin to get better.
Talking about your feelings is hard. As a man, it’s even harder. We have to deal with so many things and the expectation on us can be too great at times. Football offers an outlet for us to be able to express a variety of feelings we may not know how to deal with otherwise. The football community is working hard to address the mental health of men and we applaud this wholeheartedly. Regardless of the initiatives, the programmes and the advertising, your own mental health and its condition is down to you.
If you are struggling or feeling unwell, you must speak up. Once you do that, help will very quickly follow and you will begin to feel better. The recovery may be quick, it may be lengthy, you may always deal with mental health issues moving forward, but taking that first step to help will ease these feelings. Above all, you aren’t in this alone: you aren’t the first to go through this and you won’t be the last. Just hold on to that fundamental quality of faith: faith that things will get better and things will improve.
Of course, mental health issues can affect all genders, ages and demographics. Lee’s passing has shown us that: a man who, in most people’s eyes, had the dream job and lived the life many want. No one is immune to these problems and they can strike at any time. Part of looking out for people is making sure you check in on them: a message, a phone call, a positive social media post - whatever it is, even if it touches one person and makes them think, it will make a difference.
Above all, we need to make talking about mental health and our feelings an everyday conversation - something as natural and as easy as ordering a coffee. We need to make sure we don’t lose a mate, or even a player. We are all part of the Reading FC community and by extension, the football family.
Wherever you live, The Tilehurst End, Elm Park Royals and Talk Reading can help you reach out and get the support you need and deserve. We are all here to listen and make it clear that you don’t need to feel embarrassed, worried or ashamed. Taking the first step on your healing process is vital.
It’s OK to not be OK. Are you OK?