James Coppinger says it is important for people involved in football to speak up about their mental health as Rovers prepare to face Rochdale on the FA’s dedicated Heads Up weekend.
Rovers are uniting with clubs across the country to start the biggest conversation about mental health, and Coppinger, who has been open about his own mental well-being in the past says just talking can be a massive help to anyone that may have a problem of their own.
“It’s very important that people in football do talk about mental health and get that out into the open, and that can help people change just simply by talking about it, people are more equipped to talk to their network around them,” he said.
“Depending on what happens in someone’s life can determine what you can deal with and how much of that you can deal with too, I came from a small-town mentality, never really wanted to be a professional footballer, but it spiralled into it very quickly.
“I got an opportunity at 16 at Darlington, then joined Newcastle at 17, playing in the Premier League at 19, 21 I got released, 22 got relegated out of the Football League, all of these things that happened, I was never really equipped to deal with it all.
“There’s definitely more there that is available for people to seek help and change and feel better about themselves, the biggest thing is actually talking to somebody, and that might just be someone who doesn’t necessarily have the answers.”
Coppinger has spoken openly about almost dropping out of football altogether after suffering relegation from the Football League with Exeter City in 2002, having hit the heights of the Premier League with Newcastle United just a couple of years earlier.
He is now using his own background to help others around him change their own lives and ensure that everyone has their own support network to help anyone get through the toughest moments in their life.
“It’s massively important to me to have those support networks around and have the right people around me, my mum and dad were massive for me, but they were going a divorce, my granddad passed away and then I moved away from home for the first time all by 21,” he added
“I had no one around me apart from the people I was drinking with and gambling with, so now it’s great that there are people at clubs that can help, there’s the PFA that can help and people are becoming more aware of it all.
“Just letting somebody know how you’re feeling actually relieves a lot of pressure, I know that for a fact because I’ve been through that, they might then be able to pass you on to someone who can help you more with what you’re going through.
“Speaking to older, more experienced people can also help, that’s why for me personally I wanted to help other people because I know how much it can change your life, not everyone has a support network and they’re the ones that need the help.”