Treat mental and physical health the same

Guide 17 - 21 21+

England CP U21 head coach, Jack Rutter, urges coaches to treat mental health with the same importance as physical health.

England U21 CP head coach, Jack Rutter, believes football must recognise and act on mental health problems in the same way they would a serious physical issue – like an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

“People will always see somebody with an injury like an ACL injury and go ‘they’ve got an injury’ whereas they don’t always see mental health the same – mental health is exactly the same,” believes Rutter.

“For you to be able to do your job, you need to get your mental health right,” he added.

Rutter, who was open about his own problems with mental health during a playing career that saw him captain the England CP squad, believes that having a trusting environment where players can talk to their coaches can help footballers release the burden of mental health.

“I used to worry about things all the time and get really down and depressed,” explains Rutter.

“But just having the psychologist at England, Jamie Barker, to talk to and feeling open and confident enough to talk to other players and management staff about issues that I had really helped me to release that pressure and release that burden.”

Treat mental and physical health the same

The FA are currently working with Heads Together - a mental health initiative spearheaded by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – on the ‘Heads up’ campaign, which aims to raise awareness of mental health in football.

For Rutter, coaches must put themselves in the shoes of their players and ensure the health and wellbeing of each member of their squad is a priority.

“I think it’s important that every player knows that it’s ok not to be ok.

“The environment that I want to create when I’m working with players is nice and open. I want them to be able to approach me and tell me ‘I’ve got something going on at home’ or ‘I’m not feeling too good today’

“It’s so important that first and foremost, their health and wellbeing is taken care of.

“Now playing sport itself helps that - which is absolutely brilliant. But when players are away from home - they might be missing home, missing their dog, I don’t know - it’s important that their mental health is taken of.

“I’m glad it’s [mental health and football] in the media now and I’m glad that people are talking about it.”

For further details about how to support your players’ mental health read the official ‘Heads up’ guidance notes for managers and coaches working in adult football here.

The Boot Room will be publishing articles supporting the campaign throughout the 2019/20 season.

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