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Faraday: "I use my art to talk about mental health"

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In Ghana, a country where mental health issues are treated as a taboo subject, Dorcas Fumey Kafui stands out. The footballer, who is known as Faraday, not only speaks openly about her own struggles with mental health issues but also uses her drama education to teach others about the issue.

By Dorcas Fumey Kafui (Faraday)

I have always loved football. I started playing early on but my parents wanted me to concentrate on my education. While disappointed, I accepted it because I felt it was the norm.

When I was doing my four-year undergraduate degree, I was playing for the university team and participated in the annual Ghana University Association Games. But when I registered for my MA in 2019, I joined Ridge City, a club in the First Division. It was at Ridge City that I realised the importance of mental health.

I was suffering from mental health issues without even being aware of them. I think one of the major issues is that sometimes athletes are not recognised for how they are, but simply for what they do. The fans want you to deliver. Sometimes they don't care whether an athlete receives an injury or about the recovery process involved. They look at it in terms of the player not being able to play.

Personally, my struggles evolved around the issue of not being fielded by the coach. I was troubled. I had been putting in extra hours of personal training, but I kept questioning my abilities. I wished I could talk and get answers but there was no room for that. The period was stressful and frustrating.

Things got worse during the Covid-19 pandemic when there was a ban on football. Waking up and staying indoors wasn’t something I was used to. I tried indoor-workout sessions, but it wasn’t enough. I felt like I was losing myself. It got to a point where I started to feel numb. That was the breaking point to seek therapy. I visited the hospital a couple of times for check-ups and the doctor said I was fine; I just needed to rest and calm my mind.

After the pandemic, players were struggling to get back into football and it felt like nobody cared about their struggles. It was as if you had simply been put aside. As I had no idea who to talk to at the time, I decided to write. It helped me free my mind.

My writing started to reach other footballers. I received feedback from players from different countries, sports journalists, and the general public on how they resonated with it.

Unknown to them at the time, I was still battling with mental health issues – but the thought of me sharing to free myself and inspire others brought me hope and ignited my passion to write more. I wrote a lot and I will soon be releasing BAYOR, a collection of stories on women’s football in Africa, where themes revolve around mental health and other structures required for player welfare.

This made me realise players need a community where they can share and be heard, so I created a project called Echoes from Faraday to do just that.

In our local community, it becomes difficult to overcome a thick fog of resistance when a young girl decides to play football. Echoes From Faraday is a paradigm shift; it creates an artistic environment for women footballers in Africa to share and be heard.

Here, performance poetry and films are used to bring hope to the audience. This transformative craft cuts across all angles of the untold stories of women’s football in Africa. It exposes the reality of the journey women’s players from Africa take.

We’ve had a couple of beneficiaries from the featured players on the project go to young girls in the local community and assist them with training. These players found solidarity. It reduced their anxiety and calmed the mind when they realised they are not alone.

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Dorcas Fumey Kafui (Faraday)

I have also started going out to sports programmes to talk about these issues. The more we talk about them, the more people will become aware of them and realise that there is help that they can obtain. Although these visits are not entirely artistic, they are in line with what I am doing. We are still sharing hope and bringing strength and power to the footballers with whom we work during these visits.

I was asked by Ghana's player union PFAG to join their creative team. Initially I was very enthusiastic, but I was still struggling: I was down mentally, emotionally, I was broken. When I shared my reluctance with the union, Anthony Baffoe, the founder of the PFAG, spoke to me and suggested I seek help. At the time I had joined a Premier League club, Police Ladies, who have a counselling department. They helped me and gave me the strength to help others.

I am now working part-time with the PFAG. One of the most common issues is that players are struggling with their mental health and as the union has realised how much pressure is on women players, they are calling on players to report any issues they have. The PFAG is helping them understand what their problems are and what options they have to cope with them.