'Don't Be Afraid To Seek Help' - Andy Townsend Addresses 'Go Sort Yourself Out' Attitude To Mental Health

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Former footballer Andy Townsend has said that mental health struggles were not a priority during his playing days, as part of what he has described as a "go sort yourself out" attitude to the issue.

Townsend who captained Ireland at the 1994 World Cup in the USA, spoke about the issues faced by athletes. He was speaking as he launched the #TalkMoreThanFootball campaign with Three, Chelsea FC, and Aware.

Recent studies have shown that 56% of Irish fans have suffered a mental health disorder, with 26% having never spoken about their mental health issues. 54% have said that they would like to talk it about more often.

The former footballer also pointed to the "glorious moments" of playing in Ireland at Italia 90, and the post tournament homecoming in Dublin which sent "shivers down your spine". 

Townsend who had spells at Southampton, Chelsea, Aston Villa, and Middlesbrough in a 20 year playing career, revealed that he played at a time when mental health issues were left at the dressing room door, and you were "encouraged to keep to yourselves". 


“It’s something that nowadays we talk about an awful lot, but in all walks of life, particularly as a former footballer, it’s something that in my era we were encouraged to keep to ourselves,” Townsend said.

“Any problems you had, you had to deal with them by looking in the mirror. Or perhaps before you switched the light off at night, you talked to your wife about. That was about it”. 

“It wasn’t something that you brought to the dressing room. It wasn’t something that you felt you wanted to necessarily share with others”. 


“has to come out”

After he hung up his boots in 2000, Andy Townsend has worked in broadcasting and punditry.

Townsend who has also been blessed with grandchildren since his retirement from the game, has insisted that it is important people speak up about any personal issues they are facing.

“Everybody had issues, problems, situations that I would love to have had the courage to maybe talk about and seek some help with”, he said.

“I’m a grandfather, I have two grandsons, and I think it’s so important now that people talk about any personal issues they have, any anxieties they have, any fears. I think all of that stuff has to come out”. 

“fine margins”

While he he has managed to cope with the demands placed on him, he admitted there were times that he would have benefitted from having “somebody around the football club that you could actually go and talk to”.

Townsend added that success in sport is decided by those “fine margins”, with clubs seeking help from professionals to focus on player’s mental wellbeing, instead of just physical fitness.

“Clubs are quite rightly encouraging their players to be open and to admit when things aren’t going quite so well for them, rather than ‘go sort yourself out’, stated Townsend.

“That’s how it used to be: ‘Don’t bring your problems to me, go sort yourself out and come back to me when you’re ready’”. 

He also said that he would tell his younger self to “not take everything so seriously”, as sport can be a “dog-eat-dog-world”. 

“The sun is going to shine tomorrow and you will live to fight another day. Along the way, there will be bumps and bruises, but don’t be afraid to seek out a bit of help if you need”, he said.

“Life can be tough for many different people for many different reasons, but it doesn’t matter what it is, there are people out there now that can help you and there are people that can get you back up on your feet”. 



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