The phrase ‘man up’ isn’t something that sits right with Marvin Sordell when it comes to discussing mental health – especially in regards to men.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50, yet still there remains a taboo among many males to discuss their emotions and feelings.
Sordell, the Burton Albion striker, was one of those people who kept everything in before revealing the seriousness of his battle with depression in an interview with the Guardian last year.
While on Bolton Wanderers’ books he attempted to take his own life in August 2013 by taking an overdose of tablets. Thankfully, he was unsuccessful in doing so.
That moment of despair culminated from years of Sordell struggling with depression.
Fast forward to the current day, and Sordell has now learned to deal with his mental health problems by accepting them as a ‘part of his life’, turning to things like poetry and cooking to keep his mind at ease.
He also recently launched his own production company (180 Productions), which will give people the opportunity to tell their stories in an imaginative and captivating way.
Sordell does this through the character, Denis Prose, which represents two sides of his consciousness.
The former Watford starlet, who has contributed to State of Play, a BT Sport Film, told talkSPORT.com: “When I first spoke about my depression I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received.
“It was time I finally got some things off my chest, though, after carrying this burden around for so long, and hopefully sharing my experiences of mental health has helped other people in the same situation.
“It’s about acceptance at the end of the day. The acceptance that it’s a part of my life until the day I die.
“I know how to manage my depression now – that’s a really key thing to be in control of.”
So how does the 28-year-old feel when the ‘man up’ tag is flung about at people who are struggling with their mental health.
“My instant reaction is that they’re in a very lucky position to have never experienced any mental health problems in their life,” he explained.
“It’s difficult to understand something you can’t physically feel yourself.
“It doesn’t seem that bad when you hear about it on the surface, it’s only when you experience it first-hand you realise the impact it can make, not just on yourself but your family as well.
“It’s only then you can understand why people react in the way they do when they suffer from mental health problems.”
He continued: “We need to get these people to understand mental health is a part of life.
“Not everyone is going to suffer from deep depression, but a lot of people are going to feel up and down – and we’ve got to educate people why that is.
“Many people’s lives just continue to go in an upward trajectory emotionally, so they can’t fathom these issues that others face.
“There are people who may be in a very deep depression but pretend to be happy, when actually they’re in a suicidal place. I’ve been there after all.
“There seems to be a taboo, especially when it comes to men, about talking about your thoughts and feelings.”
Sordell, now a father of two, says he has developed his ‘real sense of identity’ away from football.
While the beautiful game is still something he holds a deep affinity for, he has found his ‘happy spot’ away from the pressures and demands of being a professional footballer.
“Becoming a father for the first time made me see the bigger picture in life,” he said.
“My second child arrived a couple of months ago too, so in terms of understanding what is really important – becoming a dad has greatly enhanced my happiness.
“Not everyone is a parent, but everyone can find their happy spot in life, be that meditating, doing yoga, or reading.
“For me it’s great that I’ve finally managed to gain that real sense of identify outside of football.”
With that said, Sordell won’t be turning his back on the game anytime soon.
It is seven years since he sealed a dream move to the Premier League, with Bolton splashing out a reported £4m for his services from Watford.
In the summer of 2012 he was part of the Great Britain Olympic squad who ended up quarter-finalists, sharing the field with Aaron Ramsey and Ryan Giggs.
It’s safe to say Sordell’s career hasn’t hit the dizzy heights that were expected from him – but nonetheless says he’s ‘very fortune’ to have been able to fulfil his childhood dream.
“This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few years [how he’ll look back on his career when he retires],” he said.
“Have things gone differently than I expected? Of course. There is a sense of disappointment at times.
“At times you do become a bit jaded because of the situation you’re in.
“When you become accustomed to the highest level and then you go lower down the chain it does become frustrating – but that’s life.
“But if I was to go back to 15-20 years ago when my dream was to be a professional footballer, then I’ve got to be really proud of myself – I achieved my childhood dream after all.”
He added: “If you had said to me back then I’d play in the Premier League, represent Great Britain at the London Olympics, while playing with so many top players along the way – I’d have bit your hand off.
“I still love playing football – I’m desperate to maintain my love for the game. I’ve had a lot of ups and down and that does take its toll on you.
“But then I think to myself that I’ve achieved what so many youngsters dream of doing later in life, so I’m very fortunate ultimately.”
Going into coaching after retirement is not something which interests Sordell, but says a role in player care would be an enticing one for him.
“Player care is such a huge part of the game. That’s something I’d potentially move into when I hang up my boots,” he revealed.
“It’s normally external organisations pushing it on to the clubs about the player’s wellbeing, so I’d like to think the former could be doing a bit more in terms of support for these people suffering in silence.
“I think it’s important that we drum this into youngsters from an early age the importance of this subject.
MOST READ IN FOOTBALL
“I’ve spoken with a lot of academies, so delivering workshops and assisting in that sort of thing would definitely be of interest to me.”
The former England Under-21 starlet ends the interview by relaying a message to anyone suffering from mental health problems.
“You must reach out to someone. People aren’t mind readers at the end of the day,” he explained.
“It can be anyone, a friend or family member, or even a work colleague.
“You’ll be surprised how well that is received and how many other people are struggling with their emotions.
IT'S OK NOT TO BE OK
“I know a lot of players out there who are covering up their thoughts. They don’t want to burden other people with their problems.
“But they must open up, otherwise we will see more and more people believing that taking their own lives is the best option, because physically and emotionally it gets all too much for them to cope with.”
Watch State of Play, the next film in the award-winning BT Sport Films series, at 6:30pm on Friday 21 June on BT Sport 1