West Ham United have teamed up with Spire Roding, the Club’s Official Private Hospital, to show their support for Mental Health Awareness Week.
Between 11-17 May, the Mental Health Foundation comes together with healthcare bodies to help raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues. With topics such as loneliness, anger, fear, exercise and friendship having been pushed into the public sphere by previous awareness weeks, the Hammers are helping to raise the profile of services available to those affected by those illnesses and problems.
Midfielder Stewart Downing has enjoyed a successful career, with a UEFA Cup final with Middlesbrough, two years with Liverpool, a move to West Ham and 35 England caps on his CV. However, that is not to say he has been unaffected by the pressures of playing football, as he explains.
“If you’re talking about taking stick, you try and blank it out as much as you can,” the 30-year-old said, “You have to be strong-minded, focus on your own performance and game, and not let outside attractions affect you because there are a lot of pressures which come with playing football. “That’s how I tend to deal with it – blank it out as much as I can and just focus on what I need to do.
“It’s got easier as I’ve got more experienced. When you’re younger you think about things a lot more and analyse a lot more. When you’re older you deal with it better and you know what’s required.
“The most pressure I’ve been under in my career was when I went to Liverpool – I went for a lot of money, we had a difficult first season but I got through that and we got better the second season.
“There’s playing for England when it’s not going well too, with 90,000 on our backs at Wembley. It’s part and parcel of the game, if you’re not doing well that’s going to come your way and you have to deal with it.”
Having turned professional back in 2001, Downing has seen attitudes towards the psychology of sport change during his time in the game – and for the better. He continued: “There have been massive changes in the sports psychology side of it. When I first started I don’t think it was even in the game, certainly at the clubs I was at.
“In the last few years, more players use it. I’ve done it at Liverpool and I although I didn’t particularly enjoy it, I can understand why players use it. If it helps their game that’s great.”
Spire Roding has been the Club’s Official Private Hospital since November 2014, with their mission being to bring together the best people who are dedicated to developing excellent clinical environments and delivering the highest quality patient care, and Spire Roding Hospital continue to work closely with West Ham's own medical team.