Bundesliga

Remembering Robert Enke's tragic passing on International Suicide Prevention Day

Enke passed away in 2009
Enke passed away in 2009 / OLIVER LANG/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

On Friday 10 September, the world celebrates International Suicide Prevention Day. This is a topic that society still struggles to talk about. A topic that sadly still has a taboo attached to it.

Yet it's a topic that concerns us all - even those in the glittering world of football.

The last time we football fans were made aware of this was in November 2009. On that evening, the devastating news of the suicide of the German national goalkeeper Robert Enke hit the headlines. It was shocking, and hit a lot of football fans hard because we'd rarely relate mental health issues with footballers who are seemingly, on the surface, living all our boyhood dreams.

We all think that our football heroes cannot fall - and if they do, then only to get up again immediately. Just as they do every week, with us as spectators, watching on from the stands or our living room sofas.

Of course, football thrives on passion for the game, but it should always be remembered that at its core it is just a game.

Even if a few of us can make a pretty great living from it, it remains the 'most important secondary matter in the world'.

For the fans, for the thousands upon thousands of football fans who go to the games, who go to pubs to watch the games, etc., it should still be just a game. To deform it into a matter of life and death, or even more serious than that (according to Bill Shankly), may achieve a certain promotional effect in the short term and generate a headline here and there - but it does not really make sense.

The dramatic exaggeration of the game lends it a disproportionate seriousness that ultimately leads to sometimes unbearable pressure and, as a consequence, to even more fear of failure among the actual protagonists: the players themselves.

For some, this can lead to insomnia, another may regularly reach for the bottle after returning home, and another may not find a way out of it at all.

What they all have in common is an unnecessary shame, and at the same time, realising that they are left alone with that that shame, and the fear of being accused of 'mental fragility' by the public and some media, should they ever find out about these mental issues.

In any case, today's existence seems to be mainly about going further, higher, faster, and doing better. Every winning streak is applauded - only to demonise its end. Yesterday's heroes become today's failures within 90 minutes, and they're lambasted for these supposed failures.

Sometimes the smallest margins determine a football match. But even then, there is bound to be a scapegoat somewhere on the pitch for the elimination or defeat.

We know that - but we still do it. In the heat of the moment we always find a footballer to blame, not thinking about the mental consequences of our tweets, our Instagram comments, our Facebook posts.

In order to move society forward in the right direction, we all need to be aware of the consequences of our actions. We all need to find a way to be more aware of other people's feelings. Even if we think footballers have it all, they may be dealing with something in their mind that we're not aware of.

The first step to tackling this issue is for us to be aware of other's feelings, and realise that we all - even footballers - are human at the end of the day.

FIFA has launched #ReachOut, a campaign designed to raise awareness of the symptoms of mental health conditions, encourage people to seek help when they need it, and take actions every day for better mental health. With the support of past and current football players, FIFA is underlining the importance of greater awareness around mental health.


facebooktwitterreddit