Former Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere has been buoyed by the reaction to him discussing his mental health as he continues to look for a new club.
Wilshere, who remains a free agent having left Bournemouth at the end of last season, opened up about depressive thoughts he has experienced during an interview with The Athletic last month.
As a high-profile footballer, he admitted to feeling apprehensive about doing so but says the vast majority of responses have been positive, which has in turn helped him.
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“I think the biggest thing that's helped me is speaking out,” Wilshere, speaking on the Original Penguin X Campaign Against Living Miserably Under The Surface podcast, said.
“The response and the people that have reached out, it gives you confidence, and it helps massively and you know as men and as footballers, we probably find it difficult to speak out and I always had that in my head.
“I didn't think people want to hear someone who is a footballer who gets paid well moaning about things when it could be a dad out there who has to work 15 hours a day just to put food on the table.
“Someone reached out to me and said, you know, these thoughts, I don't want to say depression because I wouldn’t say I’m depressed, but these depressive thoughts — they don't care if you've got money or you've got nothing, everyone has them and it's about how you process them and deal with them.
“Just because the perception of people on social media, or people outside of the game — it's not everyone, because a lot of people, I'd say 95 per cent of the public and fans have been supportive of me. But, you know, you always get some like ‘oh what have you got moan about, you've got a nice house, you've got nice cars’, so I didn't want to go down that road but it did help massively.
“It was difficult to do. I also thought it might come across a little bit weak but it actually didn't, it was the opposite. I had the opposite response from people saying how brave you are, and just being really supportive.”
Wilshere spent part of the summer training with Como but Serie B rules on non-EU players meant they were unable to offer the midfielder a permanent contract.
He has since been offered the chance to train at Arsenal by his former Gunners team-mate, Mikel Arteta, although the possibility of a full-time deal at the Emirates is remote.
Opening up about his mental health has, though, given the 29-year-old a lift as he searches for a new club.
“It was a weight off my chest,” Wilshere said. “It just helped me when people were reaching out to me and it helped me with a lot of things, but as well it just motivated me a little bit more to keep going and keep training and just wait for the right opportunity to come.
“It will come, a lot of people were saying that, people in the game who you respect and tell you that; it gives you confidence.”
Wilshere is adamant that the injury problems that impacted on his time at Arsenal, and later West Ham, are behind him.
However, he believes he suffers from the notion that he is “an injury waiting to happen”.
“It's a perception and I’ve had this opinion from a few clubs; ‘great player, but an injury waiting to happen’,” he said.
“I haven’t been injured since before lockdown, and it was not a serious injury, I've trained every day. When I was at Bournemouth I was available for every single game, so I feel like it's a lazy answer because I can. Give me a chance, let me prove myself to you then, show you that I’m fit.
“It's frustrating and it sort of breaks your spirit as well because you know, especially when you're training on your own and every day… there's not much you can do on your own, you have to run and it's hard and it's boring, and then to get that answer it's like, ‘well, why am I doing this? Why am I breaking myself every day?’, waiting for that opportunity to come, when I'm just getting answers like that.”
Wilshere added: “I just want to play football. Fans are back in stadiums, I watch the Premier League a lot, I watch a lot of football and I just want to be a part of that. I want to feel that buzz again going on to the pitch and playing football.”
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