NEW Hibs manager Neil Lennon has opened up about his struggle with depression – and called for a change in the “culture of fear and silence” around mental health.
The Celtic legend said not feeling able to open up to his team-mates had left him feeling “paranoid” and alone.
Now, in an effort to encourage others to seek help, he has joined forces with See Me – Scotland’s national programme to end mental health stigma.
The organisation’s Power of Okay campaign seeks to tackle mental health stigma at work, in a bid to stop people feeling afraid to speak out if they are feeling unwell.
Lennon said: “I woke up one morning and I just knew there wasn’t something right with me. My thought process was different, I was feeling different, the main thing was the football, I just didn’t want to be there.
“I didn’t tell anyone at first, but I became paranoid because I knew I was acting differently, not engaging or laughing or communicating on the pitch, which were all things I did before.
“It was obvious something was wrong. When I started to feel better I confided in one or two players and they said they knew something was wrong and were supportive although didn’t have a great understanding.”
He added: “I’ve noticed it in one or two players at the clubs that I have managed.
“I quietly have them into the office, I have a chat with them, speak to them about my own experiences with depression and said I could recognise what they were going through. I took them to see the club doctor and we spoke it through and got them on the right road again.
“I would say, ‘do you want me to speak to the captain of the team, or your pals in the squad?’ If it’s a no then I will leave it and if it’s a yes we help them out.
“People shouldn’t feel like they are on their own, because they’re not. There are plenty of people who will help you.
“In any walk of life, whether you’re an office manager, a bank manager, you’re the leader of a group of people at work or in any other walk of life then it is good to be up to speed with mental health, and if you notice it quickly then you can get someone back on track a lot quicker. If you see someone struggling, just ask them if they are OK.”
Figures released by See Me found less than half of Scottish workers think a colleague would be supported with a mental health problem by trained managers.
Lisa Cohen, See Me’s national programme manager, said: “We are calling for a change in culture in organisations so workers can speak openly if they need help with their mental health, without worrying about the consequences. To reduce stigma we all need to be comfortable asking each other, ‘are you OK?’ and open up conversations about how we really feel.”