Goalkeeper Robbie Thomson explains why pro footballers can suffer mental health issues as he announces link-up with Chris Mitchell Foundation

Robbie Thomson in goalkeeping action (Pic by Michael Gillen)Robbie Thomson in goalkeeping action (Pic by Michael Gillen)
Robbie Thomson in goalkeeping action (Pic by Michael Gillen)
Ex-Falkirk goalkeeper Robbie Thomson has been shedding light on why footballers can suffer mental health problems despite seemingly being directly involved in a dream profession.

Thomson, 28, who runs Pro Performance Academy in Polmont with fellow players Callum Tapping and Blair Munn, has just announced a new Academy partnership with the Chris Mitchell Foundation, which raises awareness of footballers’ mental health and is named in honour of the young footballer who took his own life aged 27 in 2016 after suffering mental health difficulties.

Pro Performance Academy coaches will now all get mental health first aid training – run by the SPFL Trust – to try and effectively deal with any of their hundreds of young footballers who may be feeling depressed.

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"I’ve had a football career since I was 16 and I’m still playing professionally just now,” Thomson told the Falkirk Herald. "Let me tell you there’s been more downs than there has been ups.

Footballer Chris Mitchell took his own life in 2016Footballer Chris Mitchell took his own life in 2016
Footballer Chris Mitchell took his own life in 2016

"And it requires a lot of strength of character to be able to come through it.

"If you’re a professional footballer or a footballer at any level really, to have a career in the game it shows you’ve got something about you.

"There’s times when you might be a little bit down but the times when you can come through that and you can enjoy the highs and the good times, it makes them so much sweeter because of what you’ve been through.

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"Footballers are human beings at the end of the day and everyone goes through their own individual struggles and whatever they’ve got going on in their life can affect people in different ways.

Academy coach Callum Tapping playing for StenhousemuirAcademy coach Callum Tapping playing for Stenhousemuir
Academy coach Callum Tapping playing for Stenhousemuir

"Football can be a release for people but it can also add to their problems as well.

"As the old saying goes, football is nothing without the fans. But I think in terms of that kind of stuff, there will always be criticism as a footballer from a lot of angles.

"I played last season without any fans and there was still criticism from different areas (on social media). So that’s just something you’ve got to accept is part and parcel of being a footballer now.

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"I think that affects younger players more than older players because so many younger players now are so engrossed with what goes on on social media they find it very hard to take a step back from it.”

Chris Mitchell, whose clubs included Falkirk and Clyde, was playing part-time for the Bully Wee in the 2015-16 season after having to quit his professional career with Queen of the South due to complications from surgery for a spinal injury.

He eventually left the sport to train as a salesman for his uncle's company, but during his training he confessed that he was depressed and his family took him to see a psychologist; he was placed on medication but stopped taking it due to side effects.

He committed suicide on May 7, 2016.

Thomson said. “I knew a lot of the players that played with Chris and I have played in a lot of the teams that he played for.

"The other two coaches Callum and Blair have played for Queen of the South and Falkirk respectively.

"That was one of the reasons why we wanted to get the partnership up and running.”

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