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Former Liverpool Player’s Post Centers the Importance of Mental Health Support During the Pandemic

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The stress of the pandemic affects us all differently — and footballers are not immune.

Jordon Ibe of Bournemouth pictured during a training session at Vitality Stadium on October 02, 2019
Jordon Ibe of Bournemouth pictured during a training session at Vitality Stadium on October 02, 2019
Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

Former Liverpool player Jordan Ibe has received some attention online after a social media post began circulating.

In the post Ibe, who has not played for current team Derby County for nearly a month, felt he needed to “apologize” to fans for his deteriorating mental state, and reaffirm his commitment to football.

“I want to apologize to all my fans around the world. I’ve [found] myself in a dark place, due to suffering with depression. It’s no scheme for the media or to have my name in your mouths, I just find things hard truly. I appreciate all the love and messages from everyone. Times are hard in general due to the pandemic. I have the full support of my family and Derby [County] Football Club.

“I will fix myself and this situation, which I’m 100 percent committed to. Not only for my family, my close friends or my beauteous daughter, but for me.

“Much love to every single person. Jordan Ibe.”

I want to apologize to all my fans around the world. I’ve find myself in a dark place, due to suffering with depression...I just find things hard truly. I appreciate all the love and messages from everyone. Times are hard in general due to the pandemic. I have the full support of my family and Derby County. I will fix myself and this situation, which I’m 100% committed to. Not only for my family, my close friends or my beauteous daughter, but for me. Much love to every single person.
An image of the player’s social media post.
Jordan Ibe

The post has resulted in a lot of positive comments to the player, who is hopefully finding support as he copes with the depression he disclosed to his fans. Ibe’s post has highlighted the wider situation that many — footballers and non-footballers alike — find themselves in: things are hard right now.

Studies have shown that levels of depression and anxiety have gone up over the course of the pandemic, as many face challenges with isolation, economic pressure, and anxiety around physical health.

While individual footballers breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules have (quite rightly) been condemned by many, we do need to recognize that the vast majority of footballers, like many of us, are doing their best to cope with massive amounts of isolation from loved ones in order to safely do their jobs and avoid contracting and spreading the virus — all while feeling the pressure to perform well under very public (often televised) scrutiny.

It is easy to let perceptions of footballers’ wealth — and the idea that their job is a desirable one — paper over players’ humanity. Players are just human beings trying to do their best in a very public job role at the end of the day, and it’s therefore quite heartbreaking that Ibe felt the need to “apologize” for his struggles. He is certainly not the only one struggling.

In a recent study published in The Guardian, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) reported that in a survey put out in the midst of the pandemic nearly one in four current and former professional footballers said they were “depressed or had considered self-harm,” and over 300 of them reportedly sought “wellbeing or educational support since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown,” a higher number than would normally seek these resources.

Like many of us, players are nervous about the future of their field of work given the significant challenges that the pandemic has presented for football. That this and other pressures impact our mental health is nothing to apologize for.

Ibe’s post (and the reactions to it) hopefully emphasize that we’re not alone, and hopefully urge us to better support each other.

If you or a loved one need help with a mental health crisis, global resources can be found here. You are not alone.