Scottish National Team
During Mental Health Awareness Week, former Scotland and current Reading midfielder Charlie Adam has discussed the importance of the subject and spoken about how he has overcome mental health difficulties in his career.
The 34-year-old has a passion for coaching and is currently undergoing his A Licence, having already passed his B Licence.
Charlie, what are your thoughts on the Scottish FA’s latest steps to increase mental health awareness with their eLearning module, aimed at educating coaches on the subject?
The module will give coaches a head start on issues they may well face in their managerial career. As a coach you will find yourself in a lonely places at times, in terms of setting up sessions and being frustrated at how results are going.
Or you might not be in a job, which could have a negative effect on your mental health.
These are the moments that will happen to all coaches at some point along their journey so it is important to recognise that and it is great thinking from the Scottish FA and the Hampden Sports Clinic to give consideration to mental health and educate coaches on the subject.
Hopefully this is the start of mental health being educated to coaches, as it is something that will be of great benefit to them.
How beneficial is it for coaches to be educated on mental health, as it is an issue that affects a lot of players?
If you are the coach, you are probably more likely to pick up signs that a player is struggling, quicker than anyone else. Mental health is also important in terms of dealing with defeats and the pressure of having to win all the time.
Your Dad tragically passed away in 2012 through suicide. How did you cope with that difficult time and come out the other side stronger?
I always believed my Dad was a strong, hard man but I knew he had a soft side to him and was never scared to have a cry if he needed to. A lot of people in the game also saw him as quite a hard guy but deep down something wasn’t right.
I was sat in a supermarket car park around Christmas time when I found out and I got a call from my brother to tell me.
Normally my Dad would wrap Christmas presents with the door shut so we couldn’t see in and he’d done that, which we felt was normal. After about an hour and a half, my brother went to see what he was upto, managed to get in the door and saw him lying there, which was obviously a huge shock.
I had a tough time after that, on and off the pitch.
It wasn’t until the following year that everything started to sink in. I went to speak to someone about it and I was told that I was taking on a burden for the whole family and that was why it was affecting me so much. I was trying to be a supportive brother, husband, father and son.
A year after my Dad’s death I just exploded.
I broke down but thankfully managed to speak to people who got me back. I’m glad I was able to do that.
Who helped you through that period?
There was no-one who really understood how I felt apart from the physio. I went to them and said I was struggling. I never had any thoughts of suicide but I was just going through a deep lull. I could never get up and I was always drained. The emotion had got to me. The physio was great and found someone who I could speak to about my issues.
I’m so glad I did that because if I didn’t, then god knows what could have happened.
I’m older now and day-to-day life is normal, with my kids and wife. When the anniversary of my Dad’s death comes round it’s always hard but I’m thankful I have a busy life which keeps me going.
At the start of the year, you were subject to unacceptable online trolling regarding your appearance, after scoring a goal for Reading against Fulham. How did you cope with that level of abuse?
I’ve had those sorts of comments about my appearance since I was a young kid so the abuse is something I’ve accepted.
Has it affected me mentally? I would say no as it doesn’t bother me. That’s my look, that’s my appearance and I’m comfortable how I am. If I wasn’t comfortable then I’d spend the money to fix it but I can handle someone shouting something at me from the terracing.
I’m used to getting stick because of my teeth and although I can handle that, I can understand why other people may not be able to deal with those comments.
People need to think more about what they say because a comment about someone’s appearance could easily entice them into a bad place.
We need to try and educate the next generation coming through and improve how they talk to people. It’s important that we do that.
If I was Joe Bloggs on the street and someone said something, it would become a scuffle but as a footballer you have to ignore it because if you bite back, it becomes a big story.
Being mentally strong as a footballer and a coach is so important, to ensure you don’t react to these people.
There are a number of footballers who are now speaking out about their mental health difficulties. That must be encouraging that society has now become more accepting of those issues?
In the past a lot of people would have kept it bubbled up inside of them but now we’re getting more people opening up and speaking about it.
It’s great that people in the public eye like myself can speak out and tell them that you’re not alone and it’s always good to talk.
I think mental health issues are accepted more now in the changing room than they would have been when I was coming through at Rangers. I think back then you would just have been called soft.
The biggest problem for academies is that these kids might reach 17 and they don’t get a contract. I think we need to look after people who don’t make it in the game, as they could easily dip into a very low part of their life.
With Coronavirus shutting down football across Britain, how are you coping without the normal routine of training during the week and playing games at the weekend?
I’ve been getting up early every day with my kids and I’ve been training two hours in the morning to keep my routine up.
It’s not very often we get the chance to spend this amount of time with our families so this has been a great opportunity to do that.
For lads who are living on their own, they are the ones I think about, in terms of how they’re coping. For me, it’s important you pick up the phone to anyone you can and look after each other. I think we can all become better people when we come out of this.
For players, there will be a lot of uncertainty around their future due to contracts expiring.
How important is it for footballers to keep mentally strong during this period?
It’s a huge worry for players. I think there could be 40% of players in England who could be out of contract this season and I think it’ll be tough for players to find deals that suit them. There needs to be a place for people to talk about their worries as this will be when the tough times will come.
Hopefully we can emerge from this period in as best shape possible as it’ll be a struggle.
My contract with Reading runs out at the end of the season, whenever that’ll be, and then after that we’ll look to see what happens. I want to keep playing for as long as possible.
Once I retire, hopefully I can get the opportunity to coach. I am always watching games, from a variety of levels across Britain. Not everyone can go into a job at the top, so you need to know your players across the divisions and that’s something I’m passionate about.