FBB Patron Smalling reflects on importance of opening up about emotions and mental health

At a time when a lot of people are struggling with mental health issues due to anxiety about the spread of COVID19 or due to being stuck inside more because of the lockdown, it's refreshing to hear a professional footballer talk so openly about mental health.

In a candid live interview on the FBB Instagram, his first ever live session on Instagram, Roma star player & FBB patron Chris Smalling did not disappoint.

“I think it's a time at the minute where people are opening up to whatever issues they’ve had, whether that’s mental issues or growing up or in terms of struggles within the game or struggles in whatever… I think a lot of footballers and also other people in the public eye are now speaking up and sharing their opinion. I think that’s what everyone needs to hear, because no one’s a robot, we’ve all got either inner demons or inner struggles…”

Recognising the difficulties that young people often face when talking about their emotions, Smalling continued:

“Even growing up, I think you’re often taught to hold things in and not express your emotions and I think that’s something I’ve [only] learnt, really, later in life. So yeah, that [the work FBB do supporting young people to express their emotions] was a big part of why I wanted to be a part of FBB.”

“I’ve had things in my head before where they can almost be on your mind for months and months, whereas if you’re able to share it and open up… You have to make yourself a little more vulnerable and open up and then almost that pressure gets released.”

Smalling also spoke about the importance of not spending too much time on social media or focusing on other people's criticism, whilst recognising how difficult that can be in the social media era.

“No one is that thick skinned that you’re not going to take some of that on and it’s not going to affect you; I think social media is a great tool, where you can connect to a lot of people... But ultimately I think you need to have it in doses because... if you are mainly aimed at reading all your comments and for one day you’re getting all these good comments and you’re on some sort of high but then the next day you’re getting a load of negative comments… Then you’re going to be up and down like a rollercoaster, which is not good for anyone’s welfare.”

Finally, Smalling spoke about how a growth mindset has helped him overcome difficult moments in his career to come back stronger, by sticking to his vision and believing in himself:

“I’m not someone who scrolls through all my comments… Ultimately I know when I’ve had a good game and when I’ve had a bad game, and I’m always learning… I think it’s about being headstrong and not losing belief, even when others might. Because ultimately that is when you can sometimes get your biggest growth, when everyone is doubting you and your back’s against the wall… But you see that vision and you know what you want to do.”

A huge thanks to Chris for supporting FBB during as our patron and for going the extra mile to engage with our participants and supporters during this difficult time. Chris and his wife have even filmed a cooking challenge to encourage young people to eat healthily, as well as a guided meditation for the FBB Family insta page to help teach young people how to meditate.

We have recently launched our very own Virtual School to help support young people digitally during the COVID19 crisis. If you’d like more information on this, read this article.

If you feel able to support FBB during these difficult times, please donate here: https://www.footballbeyondborders.org/donate/

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