PFA to send 50,000 ex-players depression pamphlets following death of Gary Speed

While it remains unknown whether or not the Wales manager suffered from the illness, chief executive Gordon Taylor is keen to let people know there is support on offer
The Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) has announced that it will be sending a booklet on handling depression to all ex-players following the death of Gary Speed.

The Wales manager was found hanged in his home on Sunday aged just 42, and while it is unknown whether the former Leeds and Newcastle midfielder was suffering from depression, the PFA is keen to act.

50,000 former professionals will receive the booklet after the debate around mental health in the game re-emerged following the suicide of German goalkeeper Robert Enke in 2009, and now with the death of Speed, PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor wants to “let people know there is a support system.”

The Footballers’ Guidebook contains advice, helpline numbers and case studies of those who have suffered the illness such as the likes of Andy Cole and Paul Gascoigne.

The author Susannah Strong admits that it’s been tough to get any footballer to talk about the matter.

"It's an extraordinary sport where you get people to the absolute physical perfection and yet there's no attention paid whatsoever to the mental health of footballers,” she told BBC Sports.

"It's very, very hard for players to know where to go and who to turn to when they start feeling rough."

"Our booklet is a start but there's so much more to be done.

"The thing now is about prevention. It needs to be ok to talk about mental health.

"There needs to be more communication. That needs to start before people become unwell, right at the beginning."

Chief executive of the Sporting Chance clinic, Peter Kay, has revealed that 10 players have already contacted the organization since the death of Speed.

"There has been a tremendous outpouring of emotion this week, an indication that Gary was regarded as one of our finest," Taylor said.

"This booklet went out at the beginning of the season after the deaths of Robert Enke and [Rushden & Diamonds goalkeeper] Dale Roberts, and after what has happened with Gary we have decided to widen its circulation.

"Mental problems have to be treated with understanding. Players can have panic attacks, fail to come terms with leaving football, finishing as a player, or the pressures of being a manager.

"We want to do all we can to try to avoid another tragedy like this."