A FORMER Coventry City striker helped launch Coventry and Warwickshire’s ‘It takes balls to talk’ campaign as part of World Mental Health Day.
After starting his career at Crystal Palace, Leon McKenzie joined Coventry City from Norwich in 2006 – scoring 12 goals in 62 appearances.
However as the end of his football career approached, Leon experienced a painful journey to the depths of debilitating depression – which culminated in him attempting to take his own life.
But Leon battled through and has built his own route to recovery – and next month will enter the ring for a chance to become the English Super Middleweight Champion.
Despite his big fight, Leon took time out of training to describe his own experience with depression and to express his support for a new campaign – which aims to get men talking about how they feel.
The campaign aims to generate thousands of conversations between people about how they feel mentally – and local sports clubs Coventry City and Wasps have even got involved with the drive to combat depression.
Leon said: “It really does take a lot of bravery to speak up.
“Life can be tough, and sometimes it really does take balls to talk – that’s why I am glad to support this campaign and give my time.
“Hopefully others will see from my story that no matter how bad it feels, you are not alone.
“Others have these feelings too, and there are people around you who really will help.
“If you know someone who may be experiencing a difficult time you can help simply by recognising this, and by listening yourself.
“It seems that men struggle to see all of this sometimes, and that’s what ‘It takes balls to talk’ is all about.”
Social media and online resources will continue the conversation, with a second wave of activity already being planned for next May’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
Campaign organiser Alex Cotton came up with the idea for the campaign after visiting a Sky Blues game for the first time and realising what a great opportunity it presented to reach out to men with positive messages about mental health.
She said: “National statistics show that three in every four people who take their own life are men.
“Women are far more likely to seek help and use local services such as the NHS when they experience mental distress.
“But it doesn’t have to be this way, and evidence shows that it really does start with talking about how you feel.
“Men simply aren’t very good at it, but our campaign aims to help change that.”
The campaign is being led by Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust together with support from Coventry and Warwickshire Mind, Samaritans and national mental health campaigners, Time to Change.