PFA express concern over player depression

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) have expressed concern that players leaving the game are most at risk of mental health issues.

A Sky Sports News report revealed on Thursday that 136 PFA members have suffered from issues such as depression, anxiety and addiction in the last year.

The PFA have recruited 26 counsellors in the last 12 months, while they have also launched a network to support current and former members right across the country.

And it has now been announced that the organisation will open a 24-hour phone helpline to offer members advice and assistance.

PFA head of player welfare Michael Bennett noted that footballers are at risk due to the high-pressure nature of the profession, and that they are working hard to combat the problem.

"Football is a pressurised environment. Some players can deal with it and others can't," Bennett told Sky Sports News.

"You have injuries, some of the ones you see nowadays are career-threatening.

"You have the transition from football which is a big issue for us - that players can't cope with leaving the game of football."

Ex-footballers Clarke Carlisle and Stan Collymore have openly spoken about their battles with depression, bringing much-needed exposure to the issue.

Matt Baker, pastoral support director for Sports Chaplaincy UK, believes that young players are particularly vulnerable.

"It's a very big part, working with the academy boys - it's important because a number of those boys will only be here for a couple of years and then be released," Baker said.

"That can throw up all kinds of issues and they need the support as they work through that and they're starting out in this football industry and that can be quite a cultural shock and so for us to be there to offer that support is crucial."