Depression is prevalent in South African football, says Dr Lervasen Pillay

Goal spoke with Dr Pillay about the prevalence of depression in South African football and how it can be prevented

In the wake of revelations that Bafana Bafana legend Delron Buckley contemplated suicide due to depression during his time abroad, Goal caught up with sports doctor Dr Lervasen Pillay, on his thoughts on depression in South African football.

Dr Pillay stated South African footballers and athletes are not immune to mental disorders such as depression and as someone in the know, has expressed his concern that a number of Premier Soccer League footballers have silently fallen victim to depression.

“It is very prevalent,” Dr Pillay told Goal.

“I don’t think it's spoken about enough with elite athletes and not only elite athletes but development athletes as well. I Think it’s something that needs to be addressed and we need to be more sensitive towards it," he said. 

“We must realise that athletes and footballers, they are normal people. So, no matter how much money and no matter how much luxuries you have in life there is always issues that are concerning that you need assistance with, and when you have such a large ego with no one to even go for assistance, that is when it becomes a problem and you become depressed. You cannot just snap out of it,” he stated.

“There are lots of different ways of preventing it and most of it comes from educating people. Not from an academic perspective but just from a life skills perspective because that’s where we miss out. A lot of the guys get involved (in football) from a very young age and they only taught football. But they forget about what happens in real life,” he added.

Dr Pillay also believes that coaches need to put a greater emphasis on the psychological factors, and has also called on the South African Football Association and the PSL to implement educational programmes and support structures to effectively curb the rise of depression.

“The coach plays a huge role in the psychology of athletes and a lot of coaches in South Africa allude to know a lot about the psychology of players,” Dr Pillay said.

Article continues below

“But I think that’s just from a very simplistic understanding of it and they should really spend a little bit more time educating themselves about it.

“I think that from a management perspective and a football running perspective there should be an enforced method in which there is a proper development educational programme for youngsters coming up in football and for those phasing out of football. That will give them the tools to deal with and the tools to deal with when they moving out of the game.

“They should have access to facilities and professionals but that doesn’t mean they have to go a psychologist. They need to be able to access people that when they have a problem and it is something that their clubs cannot deal with, they need to have a bunch of experts that they can go to, that they are comfortable to go to and has not just been given by their clubs with a certain agenda,” he concluded.