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Carroll: Why it's vital to talk about mental health

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll has shared his experiences of battling alcoholism and depression in the latest, hard-hitting episode of UTD Podcast.

While speaking to ex-Reds defender David May and podcast presenter Helen Evans, the 42-year-old bared his soul and spoke of the importance of talking about mental health, encouraging others to do the same. 

Roy’s struggle with alcohol started when problems off the field started to mount up during his time at West Ham United, the club he joined after leaving Old Trafford in 2005.

“I think there were a lot of things happening,”
he recalled.
“I was injured and I got into stupid financial things with apartments and houses, so there were a lot of financial problems as well. It all happened, all at once in that year.
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Roy Carroll speaks during an episode of UTD Podcast
Watch this clip from UTD Podcast as Roy Carroll describes his battles with alcoholism and depression.
“It was depression. Let me try and explain it. I was doing same thing every day. I was getting in that little hole, and it was getting bigger and bigger. 

“Because I was injured I wasn’t even going into training – they had told me to take two months off. So I was getting into a routine, waking up about 10 o’clock. Drinking when I got up, drinking at lunchtime, drinking at teatime. The wife and the kids would come in and I was depressed that I couldn’t do anything. It was such a horrible feeling.

“I couldn’t cope. I tried to hide it from my family.”

Despite this, it soon became clear to Roy’s wife and his agent who convinced him to attend a rehabilitation centre.

“My wife knew. She knew I was in a bad way. That’s why I went to rehab. Basically my agent and my wife put me into rehab. For me I didn’t even know how bad I was at the time. I said, ‘No, I’m not going, I don’t want to go’. I ended up going for my wife and my agent. I just wanted to say I’ll go in for them. Mentally, in my head, I was thinking, ‘I’m not coming off the drink’. 

“I was only in rehab for six days, I came back out and I was off the drink for a week and I had the press and everybody waiting outside my house. After a week they were away and I just went out drinking again.

“I didn’t want to go in (to rehab). My problem was that I didn’t think I had a problem. That’s the big problem.”

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All of this took its toll on Roy’s family life, which resulted in the goalkeeper and his wife separating. He reached his nadir while living alone in London. 
“I woke up in Canary Wharf and spoke to the wife and I begged her to take me back.

“I woke up and I looked up in the mirror and I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t even recognise myself. I knew I had lost my family, I’d basically lost football as well. I thought I’m going to lose my life because the drinking I was doing was ridiculous.”


That proved to be a turning point for Roy.
“My wife didn't take me back straight away but I’ve stayed dry ever since. That was nine years ago and 11 months from today.”


Back in Northern Ireland, Roy now spends his time coaching, having set up the RC1 goalkeeping school. He admitted that coping with depression is hard but that football has helped. 

“It’s still ropey - the depression. Sometimes I’m in the house and I can feel myself getting back into that routine because I don’t do anything during the day because the kids are at school and I don’t do the coaching until [the evening] after 6 o’clock so I have to keep myself active.

“When you have too much time on your hands, that’s when you think too much.”
 
The fame and fortune of being a professional footballer has been a barrier in the past for Roy and others to speak openly about their mental health.

“People say, ‘Why did you not talk about it then?’ At the end of the day, when you are earning so much money, why would you want to come out and talk about your problems? People just look at you and laugh at you.

“For me now, I talk about it because I don’t care what people think about me. I just want to help – if there are a hundred people and I can help one person then I would be over the moon. 

“Me and big Pat [McGibbon] talk about mental awareness and mental health in this part of the world and it’s serious over here with suicides in Northern Ireland, it’s really, really serious. The ones that you need to look out for are the ones that are always talking and joking around in the changing rooms like I was.

Earlier in the summer, Carroll's fellow countryman and former United star Keith Gillespie talked in similar terms about his own mental health on the UTD Podcast.
Gillespie said:
“Everyone thinks that a footballer’s lifestyle is glamorous and big money but everyone is made in different ways and has different thoughts in their head. So it is important to have that message out there and have the right people around you and the right support.”


Roy's message to others who are living with depression is clear – it’s good to talk.

“I was lucky, I was a little bit strong enough to pull myself away from it. I got myself in that mess but I got myself out of it.

“I’m still fighting it as well – the depression. I’m not going to say that I’m not depressed – I do get depressed once in a while when you are sitting in and you are thinking about things. It’s all about thinking, thinking bad thoughts. 

“There is always someone out there to talk to and that’s what I try to say to people – don’t be shy, talk to them.”


The UTD Podcast featuring Roy Carroll is now available to download from various streaming services. You can also find previous episodes at manutd.com/podcast.

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