MX23RW : Tuesday, February 19 19:56:31

Lennon wants more players to talk about mental health issues

Lennon wants more players to talk about mental health issues
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The former Everton winger was detained under the Mental Health Act last year but is enjoying life at Burnley.

Aaron Lennon hopes he and other footballers who have spoken out about mental health issues have helped normalise the subject.

Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act in May 2017 after police found him at the side of a road in Salford during his time at Everton.

Now with Burnley and confident he is fully over the stress-related illness, Lennon has been open about his struggles and is keen to support others.

Most importantly, Lennon wants players who may be experiencing mental health problems to know that help is out there having kept his own feelings bottled up for too long.

He said: "There's probably a lot of footballers who don't want to come and speak about it but it's just normal. There's going to be spells where you probably don't feel so great and there's going to be spells where you do feel great.

"Hopefully it opens the door for people to say, 'OK, I'm not feeling good'. There's so much help out there and hopefully I can be an example that you might be going through a tough time but you can get back to where you want to be, enjoying football, enjoying life again."

The move to Burnley in January has played a big part in Lennon's current positive state of mind, with the winger feeling fully at home in Sean Dyche's close-knit squad and an important figure on the pitch.

He believes the illness was a one-off, saying: "Touch wood, I've been really good since. You learn a lot about yourself during those periods. I had to take a look at myself, but I've got a great family, great friends and the clubs I've been at have been fantastic.

"Everyone's different, I can see why some people might think it's a constant battle. I feel great, it doesn't cross my mind. You do look back and say, 'Wow, I can't believe I was in that place'."

Dyche welcomes football's changing attitudes to mental health at a time when he believes the psychological demands on players are at an all-time high.

"It was the 'get on with it' mentality when I was playing, and we all know that's changed now," said the Burnley boss.

"There's way more support out there. I think players have got more belief in the system now, there's a deeper care and attention and understanding of the challenges. I have nothing but admiration for players. I think it's at an all-time high of demand.

"In my past, the PFA (Professional Footballers' Association) were very supportive, I believe that still continues. I do think (football) has become more open-minded about the stresses and strains with no judgement, that's the key.

"In my day it was as if it was seen as a weakness. I don't think it's seen as a weakness now. There's a lot of full-time psychologists, I believe some clubs have full-time psychiatrists. I think health and well-being is the future."

Like Burnley, Lennon has had a mixed season so far, with the high his first goal for the club and two assists in a 4-0 victory over Bournemouth in September.

The 31-year-old said: "I still think I've got a lot more to give. I still don't think I've hit top form yet. I've showed it in spells. I'm working towards it and I don't think I'm far off.

"It's just a great feeling to be loving it, coming in day in, day out, having a laugh with the lads, working hard and then looking forward to the games."

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General view of Burnley's Turf Moor taken April 2018
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