Neil Lennon deserves praise for his honesty about depression

FOOTBALL fans rarely give praise to other teams, their players or managers.

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As a Dunfermline fan who still hurts at the memory of our cup final beatings at the hands of Celtic over the past decade, I'm no different to most.

However, Neil Lennon's recent decision to talk about his battles with depression is brave and important. For anyone who has suffered from the condition, they will recognise the story he tells.

The Celtic manager has talked about his struggle to manage the condition - while still driving himself to succeed. He has spoken about his inability to remember big events in his working life - like Old Firm victories - where he gave his all on the pitch, but once he returned to the dressing room he couldn't recall any part of the game.

For me, his description of feeling like he was living in a void, and being unable to escape from it, had the most resonance of all.

Neil Lennon spoke as the Professional Footballers' Association and the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH) joined forces to launch a film aimed at raising awareness of the problem. There is a huge amount of work to be done on this issue, and on encouraging people to feel they can talk about it.

According to statistics from the World Health Organisation, more than 350 million around the globe suffer from depression, with hundreds of thousands in Scotland affected.

Another recent study by the WHO stated that depression is the third biggest global health problem and will top the list by 2030.

SAMH are one of the groups that have made a huge difference in this area in recent years. Having been to visit their one-stop-shop centre in the Merchant City, I know just how valuable their work is in Glasgow.

Depression will affect one in three people at some point in their lives and often the opportunity to talk about it can help enormously.

For many people depression will not recur if it is tackled effectively. If depression does return, then knowing where to turn to can make the difference between misery and isolation, and effective management. For far too long, depression was seen as a Cinderella condition - little more than mood fluctuations or short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life.

FORTUNATELY, it is now recognised as a serious long-term condition, with the potential to have serious consequences for physical health. At its worst, depression and the hopelessness it can evoke can be a trigger for suicide.

A diagnosis of depression can evoke many reactions - feelings of failure or shame, as well as despair or confusion.

SAMH are working hard to remove such stigma and that's why Neil Lennon's intervention is so powerful.

Talking about depression is important. We know that men find it more difficult than women to do, and any encouragement should be welcomed.

Neil Lennon's bravery in discussing his own experiences will help many people to open up about their own mental health.

I might be a Pars fan, but I applaud the Celtic manager.

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