Why it’s good to talk about mental health

Former Norwich City footballer Cedric Anselin has spoken openly about his mental health issues. Pict

Former Norwich City footballer Cedric Anselin has spoken openly about his mental health issues. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Archant © 2005

Norwich City gave their supporters two good reasons to cheer on January 2. First, City beat their opponents Derby County 3-0, but second and, most important, we saw the return of Cedric Anselin to Carrow Road, as the day's official Community Hero, along with representatives of Norwich Mind and WellBeing Norfolk & Waveney.

As a player, Anselin had always left a favourable impression upon the City faithful, and it was a surprise to learn the Frenchman played only 19 times for the Canaries.

Anselin's struggles with depression and anxiety have been well documented by the local press. In an interview with the Norwich Evening News of August 28, 2012, the midfielder discussed the life events which led to his mental health problems: a move to a club in Bolivia where, as well as confronting poverty on a scale Anselin had never encountered before (something that also contributed towards cricketer Marcus Trescothick's breakdown during an England tour of India in 2006), he also contracted a near-fatal case of malaria.

Returning to our region, the unfortunate Anselin suffered further setbacks: the discovery that a large amount of his personal savings had been stolen, and in December 2004, according to a 2005 issue of the respected football journal When Saturday Comes, a car crash in which Anselin and his wife were badly injured.

Moving forward to the Evening News of December 8 last year and Anselin explained his wife had left him along with their two sons (although they remain in touch), and so felt suicide was his only option. Thank goodness then that he reached out for help, first to City hero Darren Eadie, who also suffered from depression since retiring from football, and Clarke Carlisle, whose suicide attempt in December 2014 made national headlines.

Anselin's comments will ring true for sufferers of depression and anxiety: 'I'm ill. For me to talk today is difficult...there's a lot of people who don't want to admit it...I lost my confidence, I lost my self-belief...I didn't want to go out because I was scared. I was pretending to be happy...I stayed at home because I trusted those four walls.'

Depression and anxiety are closely related. The former is caused by the ghosts of the past, while anxiety comes from fear of the future. If you want to know how depression feels, then from what I've learned in researching this article, depression inhibits any enjoyment of life, pressing you down like a lead weight until you can no longer hold your head up.

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Depression is a slow walk along the bottom of a sullen, grey sea; anxiety on the other hand, is life upon the high wire, where you already feel as if you're falling and about to hit the ground. Each passing moment leaves you fearing the next and like depression, it never lets up; there is no escape from their effects.

They are both illnesses that isolate the sufferer, convincing him they must keep quiet about their difficulties in case admitting to a mental health problem will somehow make it worse.

Depression and anxiety feed on themselves, gaining their strength from secrecy.

When mental ill health strikes, the initial instinct of its victim is to keep quiet, a situation often compounded by their natural inclination towards shyness and solitude.

Yet this is the worst thing those stricken by depression or anxiety can do, as no-one can defeat these afflictions on their own, as Cedric Anselin and so many others have discovered.

For those of you out there who find themselves in this unenviable situation, please find the strength to tell at least one person of what you're going through, even if it's only your GP.

Yes, you are likely to be placed on medication, but that's a good thing. A lot of nonsense is talked about medication, often by those who've little experience of it, but if it works (and it make take time to find the right drug for you) then medication can give you precious space to allow you to live your life in your usual manner.

A good doctor won't just prescribe you tablets and send you on your way.

Counselling and therapy workshops are still available, despite government cutbacks, and there are charities out there, like Norwich Mind and Well-Being Norfolk & Waveney, who can offer support. There is no reason why mental illness should make you feel you need to live life alone.

Anyone who has suffered from either depression or anxiety needs to find an outlet, a way to tell others of how they feel.

Who knows, you could even write a newspaper article on the subject, as a way of telling the world of what you've gone through...