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The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) of Scotland has released a new film titled, 'Mind Games: Mental Health in Scottish Football', which includes confessions from Celtic Manager Neil Lennon and Queen of the South striker Iain Russell about their struggles with depression.

Next Wednesday, April 2, FIFPro, the World Footballers' Association, puts the issue of mental health into a global context following a study of more than 300 current and former players. With the assistance of six member unions in Scotland, the Netherlands, Australia, USA, Ireland and New Zealand, FIFPro's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge uncovers the extent of 'Mental Illness in Professional Football'.

In Scotland, Iain Russell (right person on the photo) has been outspoken in a campaign designed to remove the stigma of mental illness. In revealing his own battle with depression, the former Livingston striker said, "There's nothing to explain it. I was just really low. I didn't want to do anything. I had a job to play football and I was struggling to do that. I had to take time off," he admitted publicly for the first time.

Former Scotland internationals Ian Murray and Robbie Nielson also made important contributions to the film which premiered, Monday, March 24, in Glasgow.

Russell adds, "It's been great the way people have reacted to me – especially from within the dressing room. The majority of them know that I have been suffering so it helps me and it probably helps them as well. It makes it a lot easier."

"I suffer day-to-day but I have more good days than bad days now and that has been down to a lot of help and talking to a lot of people. I don't know if I will totally get over it. I've got a two-year-old son, Alfie, and he's my inspiration. If I'm feeling low then I just think that I'm doing everything for him."

PFA Scotland President Tony Higgins, who works with FIFPro across a variety of projects to support the modern day professional footballer, believes mental health is no longer taboo, in stark contrast to his playing days in the seventies and eighties.

"There will be great interest from other member unions' within FIFPro regarding this initiative. This problem is not confined to Scotland and affects players on a global basis; the example set by PFA Scotland will I'm sure be replicated in other countries."

Higgins recalls seeing first-hand how depression engulfed his former team-mate at Hibernian, Erich Schaedler, who ended up taking his own life. "Erich was always either very high or quite quiet, he seemed to oscillate between the two."

"There are many theories been put forward since then about his condition. The game then wouldn't have recognised that. People would just have thought he was acting oddly. Iain (Russell) talks about the importance of the camaraderie in the dressing, and that they recognise what he's dealing with."

"In the bad old days that would never have happened. Erich could have been stigmatised just for exposing himself."

Celtic Manager Neil Lennon, another who has wrestled with depression, said, "Football is a macho-dominated environment where people are worried about coming forward."

"I notice that some of my younger players, in particular, go from being outgoing to being very shy and introverted. The door is always open for them, obviously. Because, once you've experienced it, you can help others by passing on your experience and telling them it'll be all right."

Jack Ross, a driving force behind the 'Mind Games' project, supported by SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) commented, "Undoubtedly some other sports have been progressive in their attitudes towards assisting athletes with mental health issues but within Scottish sport we believe we are leading the way in terms of recognition of the issue and in our aims to create the necessary guidance and advice network."

Ross (left person on the photo): "We are extremely grateful to Neil Lennon, Iain Russell, Robbie Neilson and Ian Murray for agreeing to speak so candidly about the subject and offering to share their own experiences and opinions for the benefit of other professional players. In particular Neil and Iain have chosen to discuss very personal information and have shown great courage in doing so."



Click on this link to watch the video

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