Former Arsenal star Jack Wilshere recently shared his thoughts on mental health and the value of speaking out about it. After spending ten years at Arsenal, Wilshere has since played with West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth. When Bournemouth released Wilshere in May, he became a free agent. It is the first time Wilshere has been without a club since he broke into the Arsenal first team at just 16 years old.
With success for Wilshere coming at such a young age, being clubless at 29 is new territory for the midfielder. As he searches for his next steps, Wilshere has struggled with depression and finding motivation.
In August, Wilshere spoke to The Athletic about his mental health and coming to grips with his career. The positive responses that Wilshere received helped restore his confidence and a sense of purpose as a footballer. For Wilshere, the relief of sharing his struggles helped him release the negativity he was feeling. Wilshere didn't always feel comfortable being vulnerable. Now he feels it's essential to speak out.
"I always thought that speaking out or speaking to someone- especially in the media- would almost come across as a weakness because the general perception of footballers is that 'they have everything, wgat have they got to moan about? They've got a great life.' The depressive thoughts don't care if you're a footballer. I think it's important to speak out."Jack Wilshere
As a player who broke onto the biggest stage at a young age, the expectations for Wilshere were always high. Through speaking out, Wilshere has been able to come to terms with his career and better his mental health.
Jack Wilshere not the only athlete to emphasize mental health
However, Jack Wilshere isn't the only athlete to speak out about mental health this year, and it seems there is more support than ever for athletes in the spotlight. Though awareness surrounding athlete mental health is becoming more common, this has been a relevant topic for years. Kevin Love spoke out about issues he was having back in 2017.
Recently, athletes such as Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles have also been outspoken about the pressures of being an athlete and its mental toll. Another example is Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard, who spoke out in support of Biles this summer.
Though professional athletes have a position of privilege getting paid to play sports, it's important to remember the stresses of the territory. When an athlete speaks out, it's important to listen because everyone is going through something at the end of the day.