Marvin Sordell

Week 256 (8 - 14 September 2018)

Mental health issues in football have long been a taboo subject, but one man has done more than most to help change that - Marvin Sordell.

The 27-year-old, who played for England Under-21s and was part of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games, tweeted his first poem, Denis Prose, on World Mental Health Day in 2017. An anagram for depression, Sordell’s writing explains the two sides of his personality and the struggle for control of his consciousness.

“That was one of my first poems,” Sordell said during an interview with The Guardian. “I wanted to make depression real so people can understand how you are fighting for control over yourself.

“Depression consumes you and sometimes you submit to it. Lots of emotions snowballed and became one big thing inside me. It felt like I was overtaken by another entity. It was then that I wrote Denis Prose.”

During his time playing in the Premier League, Sordell was told he could not go to the Priory for help with his mental health, as he had to focus on football. Taking time off was not an option for him. Sordell revealed his depression got so bad, he attempted suicide.

Until Sordell started to write down how he was feeling, he struggled to express his emotions.  The creative arts became his most effective form of therapy as writing, taking piano lessons and cooking guided his way to recovery.

Now playing for Burton Albion in League One, Sordell is also currently writing a presentation to pitch to the FA and PFA about the importance of understanding mental health in football.

“Thirty years ago when someone had a physical injury they were often told to man up. Now they say: ‘If anything’s wrong with you, go to physio. No risks.’ But with mental health it’s still the case of ‘man up’ most of the time. Eventually, we’ll change that attitude.”

The husband and father has recently completed his first book, “Vulnerable Exposure”, but is yet to release it to a publisher. “I’d like to get to that point where, rather than just being ‘Marvin Sordell, Footballer’, you see ‘Marvin Sordell, Writer.’ That would be beyond any accolades.”

Marvin Sordell’s bravery in raising awareness of mental health in professional football makes him JTA Communicator of The Week.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons