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UK sports minister to hold talks over tackling mental health issues

Everton’s Aaron Lennon (in blue) in action against Newcastle United in 2016 © AFP/File / Oli Scarff

LONDON, United Kingdom, Jul 1 – UK Sports Minister Tracey Crouch is to hold talks with sports governing bodies later this year over how they can help athletes who suffer from mental health issues.

Crouch’s decision comes in light of Everton winger Aaron Lennon being hospitalised under the Mental Health Act for a stress-related illness, and a moving interview given by former England defender Steven Caulker to The Guardian, where he remarked football did not deal well with those who suffered from mental illness like him.

Crouch, who suffered from depression when she was first elected a British lawmaker in 2010 and eschewed anti-depressants, preferring to use a technique called mindfulness to resolve it, told The Times her idea is not just to change prejudices over those suffering from mental health issues.

“I take the issue of mental health incredibly seriously,” said Crouch.

“The government will be hosting round-tables in the autumn to specifically discuss how professional and elite sports can help its sportsmen and women cope with mental health conditions.

“It is not just about breaking down the stigma, we need to look at how to identify issues early on so that people do not get into a desperate position.”

Crouch, who is a qualified Football Association (FA) coach and coaches a girl’s youth team, denied her move to instigate talks was a criticism of the sporting bodies and their lack of action over the issue.

Caulker, who is presently with second-tier side Queens Park Rangers, said that when he was suffering from severe depression at Southampton, while the doctor was helpful, others just told him to go out on to the pitch and ‘express himself’.

“This is not a criticism of what sports are doing, but to identify what government can do to help the professional and elite sporting bodies support their players,” said Crouch.

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“For many people who suffer from anxiety and depression, you would never think that they might have a mental health problem and that may be particularly the case in sport.”

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