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Neil Lennon says depression led him to become paranoid and not want to play football

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Former Celtic player and manager reveals, in major charity campaign, that mental health problems turned him away from football

Former Celtic player and manager Neil Lennon has opened up about living with depression as part of a charity campaign to tackle mental health stigma at work.

Lennon, who is now manager at Edinburgh side Hibs, said he woke up one morning knowing something wasn’t right and the situation was compounded by his worries over telling his teammates.

“My thought process was different, I was feeling different, the main thing was the football, I just didn’t want to be there,” he said.

“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.”

My thought process was different, I was feeling different, the main thing was the football, I just didn’t want to be there

Lennon, who enjoyed a high profile after his arrival at Celtic in 2000, first spoke publically about his mental health in his 2006 autobiography, while still part of Glasgow’s Old Firm goldfish bowl.

He is now working with See Me by supporting its Power of Okay campaign, which aims to change the culture of fear and silence around mental health.

Lennon, who also had a spell as manager at Bolton, said he has suspected one or two players at his clubs had problems with their mental health and approached them about it.

“I quietly have 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,” he said.

“I took them to see the club doctor and we spoke it through and got them on the right road again.

“I would say, ‘do you want me to speak to the captain of the team, or your pals in the squad’, if it’s a no then I will leave it and if it’s a yes we help them out.

“People shouldn’t feel like they are on their own, because they’re not. There are plenty of people out there who will help you.

“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 get up to speed with mental health, and if you notice it quickly then you can get someone back on track a lot quicker.

“If you see someone struggling, rather than being worried about saying the wrong thing, just ask them if they are okay.”

Newly published figures from a YouGov survey commissioned by See Me, found that less than half of Scottish workers (45%) think someone in their work would be supported with their mental health problem by trained managers.

Lisa Cohen, See Me’s national programme manager, said the charity, which has released a video (below) offering people tips on how to help others, is 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 okay" and open up conversations about how we really feel,” she said.

“However if someone says they are not okay, people are worried they won’t know how to help, or could even make things worse.

“With our new campaign we want to show that reassuring someone that you are there for them, that you care and they can speak to you in confidence, can make a huge difference.

“As our survey shows, Scottish workers don’t think their managers are in a position to give the right support.”

 

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