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Mental Health Awareness Week

Lake: Speaking out helped my mental wellbeing

23 May 2020

Former Manchester City captain on his struggles with mental health and how he is now helping a new generation of Premier League players

Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place from 18 to 24 May and we have spoken to a number of present and former Premier League players about their emotional wellbeing.

Paul Lake

In September 1990, Paul Lake had the footballing world at his feet. The then 21-year-old was named captain of Manchester City and was set to be an important first-team player for years to come.

But in a match against Aston Villa, while being watched by England manager Graham Taylor, Lake suffered the first of three anterior cruciate ligament injuries that eventually ended his career.

Not only was the injury a physical blow, it had a seriously negative impact on Lake's mental health.

"All my dreams, all my aspirations, and even my identity was completely lost and shattered," he says. "I was really in a bad place, in the short term and in the years to come."

As he struggled to come to terms with what had happened, Lake began the process of healing and recovery after turning to the club doctor at Man City.

"I let him know how I was feeling, all my problems, all of my negative thoughts, everything that I could think of," Lake says.

"This really helped. He understood, he listened, he guided me and gave me a strategy to be able to work towards coming out the other side in a much better place."

And for those people who are struggling with their own mental health, Lake believes that talking about problems and worries is a positive step.

"It's really important to speak out, to speak to somebody, be it family members, friends, it doesn't matter, whatever it takes, just to make sure that you do not bottle it all up inside."

Looking after academy players

Lake now works for the Premier League as a club support manager, working with five clubs and their Academies in the North West to help them develop a new generation of players.

And he says the Academy system is working hard to look after the physical and mental wellbeing of the youngsters in their care.

"Every single player is discussed by the Academy staff which is headed up by the head of player care," he says.

"So any problems from a physical, psychological, emotional, social and financial perspective, these situations are discussed or the problems are aired.

"Most importantly the players have got the signposting of somebody to speak to so there's always a member of staff at hand to make sure they get the care and the guidance required."

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