Mental Health Awareness Week: Niamh Charles shares her story

From the official Chelsea FC website:

Chelsea defender Niamh Charles knows how important it is to talk and wants others to do the same in the good and the bad times.

Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, which begins today, our full-back spoke candidly on our podcast, We Are Chelsea, about her journey with mental health and how it has been impacted by the demands and pressure that come with being a professional athlete.

Charles does not shy away from the battles she has faced, with the highs and lows of sport sometimes taking its toll. She explains that the journey has not been linear but the England international feels better equipped to deal with the challenges she might encounter.

‘It is not like something where you are like ‘sweet, I’m fixed’ and now I know how to deal with it,’ explained Charles.

‘The last few weeks of the season I have definitely dealt better with it than I would have previously because I have worked really hard on it and I speak to the people around me who help me.

‘It’s not true to say ‘I just know how to deal with it now’ because I am obviously a lot better, but hopefully in five years I’ll be even better. It is a constant journey and it is something I am really passionate about.

‘It is an everyday thing and you have to engage with it the same way we engage with the physical and technical side of our game – knowing we can always be better with that and we can always be better with our mental health and give it the time that it needs.’

The physicality of football is evident to those in the stands. As is the technique required at the highest level. But as Charles highlights, an unseen yet vital part of the game is what is going on inside players’ heads.

And she believes it has been clear in some of the Blues’ performances this season.

‘You have seen in the last few weeks in the games with the highs and lows,’ added Charles. ‘It is a mental toll. The way we were against Bristol City, we were just on it and in the flow and a massive part of that is mentally. It’s not lost on me how massive a difference it can make.’

Charles has celebrated much success in her career already and knows it is vital to open up on the good times as much as it is to seek help during more difficult moments.

Niamh Charles wheels away to celebrate after scoring against Bristol City
Niamh Charles wheels away to celebrate after scoring against Bristol City


Talking has not always been easy for the 24-year-old – and she admits it is easier said than done. But the result of opening up has enabled Charles to recognise her achievements and struggles.

‘When someone says, ‘Go and speak to someone’ it sounds easy but I was bad at doing that and I have had to develop that,’ said Charles. ‘It’s also not just about when you’re struggling. Even when you’re as high as high can be, that is still part of your mental health.

‘I don’t want it to be when you are struggling that that is when you reach out. It is every day whether it is good or it is bad. It is having the awareness giving it the time and the space that it needs.

‘As athletes, we’re not robots – even though it would sometimes be nice if we were because that’s what makes high performance so difficult. We’re not robots and that’s why we have to take care of your mental health as much as your physical health.

‘It’s a physical game but a lot of it is played in the mind as well.’

Mental Health Awareness Week





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