In a very passionate and revealing interview with 876Stream on Saturday June 14th, Reggae Boy Kemar ‘Taxi’ Lawrence spoke at length about dealing with mental health challenges over the past few weeks.
Among other things, Lawrence confirmed that his love for the sport at the moment was not where it needs to be but he is taking the time during this COVID-19 break to handle some effects of the trauma he has experienced in recent weeks
Self-isolation has definitely taken its toll on many. The rapid change in routine that involved a switch from constant daily movements to somber isolation has paved the way for reflection and introspection which can become overwhelming and lead to illnesses such as depression.
Lawrence did allude to this, claiming that the period has caused him to focus on problems that he had buried for most of his life.
One thing that has been notable in football has been the struggles many players face off the field when it comes to issues such as mental illness. The avid football fan would be familiar with the name Gary Speed, a Welsh and English Premier League legend who tragically took his own life in 2011. It was later revealed that Speed had been battling with some personal issues which might have impacted his mental health. It was a shock to the footballing community but it brought much needed attention to the struggles that many football players and coaches face beyond the ninety minutes.
This is what Lawrence zoned in on during his interview, the common practice by many footballers to bury their issues underneath the rigorous schedule of their work life.
However, since COVID-19 has caused many of us to pay closer attention to these issues, now is the time to stop scrutinizing mental health problems and start seeking ways to improve the general feeling towards the topic.
To many, football is deemed a ‘privileged” sport, many players are expected to not experience mental health issues because of how much they earn or the lifestyle they can afford. This has contributed to the stigma surrounding mental health in football and as a result, players do not feel comfortable voicing their struggles. Being deprived of an outlet to express your feelings only makes matters worse.
In the grand scheme of things, many professionals around the world have realized the importance of advocating for mental health reform within football. Speed’s family started an initiative after his death called Speed Cycle which is geared towards raising funds to build a mental health facility in Liverpool, England. Other organizations have also chipped in to combat the issue, but no significant implementation by the relevant authorities has been implemented to tackle the problem on a wider scale.
The next step in combating the issues surrounding mental health in football should include screening of all players to ensure that the necessary provisions are put in place for those who are deemed at risk. It would also be beneficial to construct a campaign that speaks out against the stigma surrounding mental health in football and encourages players to be more vocal about the issues that they are facing.
When we think about Taxi’s situation, we know that Jamaica has not had a good reputation when it comes to dealing with mental health issues. We often turn a blind eye to the topic and that has contributed to many players facing similar issues abroad. However, with Lawrence now voicing his issues publicly perhaps that will encourage many more Jamaican players to speak up and seek help with their mental health challenges.