Arsenal's Hector Bellerin has come forward in support of tackling mental health issues within football this week, offering his support around World Mental Health Day on Wednesday.
"We must take the chains off and start talking."
Both willing and open to discuss serious matters beyond football, the Spanish full back is beginning to earn himself a reputation as a candid and competent speaker on matters outside of the beautiful game. Many Arsenal fans are beginning to appreciate that from the Catalan native.
Earlier this year, Bellerin featured as a guest for the Oxford Union - where he detailed his day-to-day life with refreshing honesty. In the Q&A format interview, he spoke with great candor in regards to the difficulties he faced adapting to English culture as a teenager, and how it affected his well-being.
The Arsenal right back was also at pains to reason why he could maintain his commitment to the game whilst enjoying other pursuits, outside of football, during his spare time. He cited fashion, technology, and environmental issues as areas in which he was particularly interested in.
In this new interview with Arsenal's website, Bellerin continued the themes of his previous discussion - enforcing the idea that these concerns really are of importance to him.
"For me, when I raise these issues I always have a backlash in terms of ‘you should just stick to football’ but it is not about that," he said. "There are problems that everyone can see but some people try to hide them. When you have a voice, a platform and a following like we do, we are influential people."
Bellerin goes on to explain how important it is to him that fans recognise how footballers are just humans with their own personal interests and vulnerabilities too. He hopes they get license to speak out when needed.
"There’s so many good things and positive things that come with raising problems and actually showing people that we’re humans. We’re not machines, we’re good at what we do, we have talent and we work really hard but sometimes it feels like this is all we do and our life is just playing football. It’s not.
"We’re humans, we have a life, we have families and we have problems, worries, and it’s important to speak about them to get people to relate to ourselves as well."
In April, it was reported that there has been an increase of more than two-hundred percent in professional footballers seeking help for mental health and emotional wellbeing issues. In the world of football, mental health awareness is undeniably growing.
Conscious of this trend, Bellerin identifies the importance of his social status as a reason for why he, and other players, ought not to remain apathetic when it comes to discussing issues such a mental health.
"Imagine there’s a kid out there who’s not happy with himself. He’s not a kid, a teenager and he knows that he’s got an issue but he’s scared because he doesn’t know what his family or friends are going to think about him," he continued.
"Then a player who he looks up to, like Danny Rose, raises this issue - it’s probably going to give this kid the push he needs to get out there and talk about it. From there, hopefully he can then be back in the best health he can, and move forward from that issue."
In light of Michael Carrick's recent admission to his own mental health issues - and his inability to come forward about them in the Manchester United dressing room - Bellerin's latest statements are looking more and more poignant by the day.
The former England international stated personal reservations when it came to speaking about the illness during his playing time.
"I kept it to myself most of the time. Even my family didn't know the full extent of it.
"It's not something that's really spoken about in football. I have not spoken about it before. For the lads that I have played with that are reading this, this will be the first time that they know [about the depression]. They wouldn't know."
It's important that esteemed footballers such as Bellerin, Rose, and Carrick are beginning open up about the subject, so that they can help encourage others to do so too.
This change hasn't gone unnoticed by some fans, who are really beginning to respect Bellerin's open personality.
Tribal rivalries are bizarre. I’m meant to dislike Hector Bellerin because of the club he plays for, but he’s one of the few footballers talking about racism, homophobia, and mental health issues within football. Instead of hating him, he’s become one of my favourite players.— Jake. (@YedIin) October 10, 2018
It was World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October. If you need any help relating to your mental well-being, please get in touch with NHS.