Former Hibernian star Mickey Weir is glad to see old-fashioned dressing room machismo in Scottish football giving way to healthier and more open attitudes towards mental health.
Weir is ambassador to the Scottish Mental Health & Wellbeing League which includes teams from all over the country.
The mission statement of the league is “through football we will support the recovery of individuals with lived experience of mental ill-health and tackle stigma associated with mental ill-health”.
The league is headed by chair David McPhee, who has been involved in coaching the St Johnstone Community Trust’s mental wellbeing group since 2010.
Former Luton and Motherwell winger Weir, 57, recalled his time in the game and welcomed the new approach to dealing with mental health issues.
He said: “When you look back now, there must have been a load of players suffering with their mental health.
“But you would hide it, they would think you weren’t a man if you spoke about it, you kept it to yourself.
“A lot of players would admit that now but then you just suffered in silence unfortunately.
“But these types of initiatives show that there are people out there who will care, there are people out there who will listen to people who are struggling in mental health issues and I know there are initiatives in football to try to help players with the pressure of playing.
“I have seen a lot of my friends and been involved with people who have suffered with their mental health and that’s what got me thinking about it.
“I’ve seen the suffering that can happen and it especially hit home during the Covid lockdown when a lot of people were desperately looking for something to light up their day because it was so grim at that time.
“I knew a number of people who were suffering so I thought this competition was great to give people something to focus on, to concentrate.
“It must be great for people to be able to go out and play for a couple of hours.
“I think people underestimate the amount of work that people like David McPhee do in getting all this together.
“Someone has to do it, travel, picking people up, organising it.
“I support this wholeheartedly, I like to see people turn up and enjoy themselves. I hope to get as many people involved as I can.”
McPhee described the involvement of Weir as “fantastic”, adding: “He has come to every set of fixtures and helped raise our profile. Having someone who has played the game at a high level is a real positive.”
And after a successful recent AGM, he is encouraged for the future.
He said: “We have our final league fixtures soon and the League Cup in November at Toryglen Regional Football Centre, sponsored by Nil By Mouth again.
“The cup is an open competition. If clubs haven’t participated in the league, they can still come along and try out and we have had inquiries from a couple of teams who are interested.
“I would say it is has been another successful season.
“After Covid (lockdown), seeing teams together every month has been a huge thing.
“I know it is a competitive environment on the pitch but seeing the camaraderie and spirit the players have all got, I think they are really grateful to be playing football again.”
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