Neil Lennon spearheads mental health campaign for youngsters

Neil Lennon lends his support to mental health campaign. Picture: Neil Hanna/JP Licence
Neil Lennon lends his support to mental health campaign. Picture: Neil Hanna/JP Licence
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NEW Hibs head coach Neil Lennon has spoken about his battle with depression and told how he tried to help young players struggling with mental health problems get “on the right road again”.

The former Celtic manager has given his backing to a campaign by the charity See Me that aims to reduce stigma around mental illness.

Lennon said he “didn’t tell anyone at first” after realising there was something wrong, but said when he did confide in fellow players they were “supportive” of him.

READ MORE: 21 youngsters turned away from mental health unit due to lack of beds

Lennon, who played for Northern Ireland and also managed Bolton, was speaking as See Me published figures showing less than half of Scottish workers (45 per cent) think a colleague with mental health problems would be supported by trained managers at work.

He is supporting the latest phase of the charity’s Power of Okay campaign, which aims to help people act if someone opens up to them.

He recalled: “I woke up one morning and I just knew there wasn’t something right with me. My thought process was different, I was feeling different, the main thing was the football, I just didn’t want to be there.

“I didn’t tell anyone at first, but I became paranoid because I knew I was acting differently, not engaging or laughing or communicating on the pitch. Which were all things I did before.

“It was obvious something was wrong. When I started to feel better I confided in one or two players and they said they knew something was wrong and were supportive although didn’t have a great understanding.”

Lennon also told how he tried to help when he noticed similar symptoms “in one or two players at the clubs that I have managed”.

READ MORE: Neil Lennon pledges to toughen up ‘boyband’ Hibs players

He said: “I quietly get them into the office, I have a chat with them, speak to them about my own experiences with depression and said I could recognise what they were going through. I took them to see the club doctor and we spoke it through and got them on the right road again.”

He added:“In any walk of life, whether you’re an office manager, a bank manager, you’re the leader of a group of people at work or in any other walk of life, then it is good to be up to speed with mental health, and if you notice it quickly then you can get someone back on track a lot quicker.”

Lisa Cohen, See Me’s national programme manager said: “We are calling for a change in culture in organisations so workers can speak openly if they need help with their mental health, without worrying about the consequences.

“To reduce stigma we all need to be comfortable asking each other ‘Are you OK?’, and open up conversations about how we really feel.”

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