Everton midfielder Alex Iwobi has urged fellow footballers to look after their own mental health by not being afraid to be vulnerable.
The 26-year-old admits he has had his own difficulties during his career and the way he coped with them was by speaking to a psychiatrist and talking to team-mates.
Mental health has become an increasingly important subject within the game and Iwobi insists seeking advice and accepting help is vital.
“Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable,” the Nigeria international said at the Beder World Cup experience, an exhibition in London designed to harness the power of the World Cup to raise awareness around mental health and suicide prevention.
“I grew up in Peckham and there was this false sense of being a man. It is only going through life – and there is so much trauma in young black men – (you learn) that if you only speak about it you’d be able to navigate it.
“There is nothing wrong with telling people ‘I’m not all right in the world. I’m just not in the right space’.
“Playing football is a big one because you are not dealing with the issue at hand, it is still there and you escape it but it is still with you.
“I feel like it is something within men, especially black men, as society is positioned not do that and if you do you are weak.
“Be OK being vulnerable, there is nothing wrong with it.”
Iwobi has learned to deal with his issues thanks to initially seeing a psychiatrist while he was still at Arsenal after taking advice from Arsene Wenger and he paid tribute to current boss Frank Lampard.
The Everton manager, appointed last January while Iwobi was away at the Africa Cup of Nations, has nurtured a talent which he recognised was lacking in self-confidence and as a result Iwobi has been one of his best players over the last 12 months.
“Last season I wasn’t playing as much as I’d like to and then in January I had the Africa Cup of Nations and I had that red card (at the tournament) which essentially knocked us out and it was a difficult time for me,” Iwobi added.
“I came back to a new manager with Frank Lampard and I’m grateful to him as he said ‘Why don’t you play matches the way you train?’.
“That pressure which was on my shoulders just left me. He gave me that confidence so I had that freedom to enjoy my football.
“Ever since I’ve had that mindset where I go into the game fearless and express myself.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe