When I sobered up in 1996, football was a very different landscape (Picture: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images)I remember football as an industry where you wouldn’t show any emotion.People would class it as a weakness. But that isn’t true – and thankfully, both on and off the pitch, we now seem to be getting closer to an environment where talking about mental health is recognised for what it is: a sign of strength.This week, something remarkable is happening in football, which shows a massive culture change is underway within the sport.On Saturday, following a football season unlike any other in history, we will see the iconic FA Cup Final dedicated to the issue of mental health – and ahead of that, the entire football family has made an unprecedented statement by coming together to sign the ‘Mentally Healthy Football’ declaration, as part of The Duke of Cambridge’s Heads Up campaign.AdvertisementAdvertisementADVERTISEMENTIt’s a promise that football clubs and organisations will prioritise mental health and put emotional and mental wellbeing at the top of the agenda, now and for generations to come. But it’s also more than that: it’s a promise that the culture has changed for good.When I sobered up in 1996, football was a very different landscape. Mental health wasn’t on the agenda at all. In the 80s and 90s, if we needed help, we manned up and toughed it out, and we ended up having nervous breakdowns.My experience is that from the moment I shared my thoughts and feelings – in a safe place with someone that I respected and loved – I got so much from it. It made me stronger. That’s why, in a world where suicide is still the leading cause of death for men under 45, it’s so important to reach people before it gets to crisis. Tony AdamsFootball manager, former Arsenal and England playerThursday 30 Jul 2020 3:00 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link366Shares Advertisement Comment We’re working towards making football a mentally healthy environment for good (Picture: Heads Up)We’re now the biggest provider of mental and emotional support to the sports industry – and we are so proud to be one of the charity partners for the Heads Up campaign, which uses the power and influence of football as a platform to change the conversation about mental health.AdvertisementAdvertisementAt Sporting Chance, we look after people on the pitch – but by being part of a campaign that shows football players being open about their own mental health, we can also help get the message out to the millions of fans and everyone in the stands.To have the Final of the world’s oldest football competition dedicated to better mental wellbeing is amazing, and to be able to do it after a period of such vast uncertainty and anxiety for so many is even more special. Football is a powerful medium. It’s our national game and it enters right into every home in the country, so it’s a great way spread the word. I was brought up on The FA Cup. It’s a very special competition, it’s historic within our society and communities. So the fans need to know that this Final isn’t just for show. We need to prove that football is putting the resources in place to have a lasting legacy on mental health within the game.More: FootballRio Ferdinand urges Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop Manchester United starChelsea defender Fikayo Tomori reveals why he made U-turn over transfer deadline day moveMikel Arteta rates Thomas Partey’s chances of making his Arsenal debut vs Man CityWe’re working towards making football a mentally healthy environment for good. Supporters watching around the world on their sofas will hopefully hear what we’re trying to say, loud and clear, that we all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. And if enough people use their support network to reach out, we can save a lot of lives.If the Heads Up FA Cup Final helps just one person reach out for support, then it’s been a resounding success. AdvertisementThe only thing that could make it even better? Well, a 14th FA Cup for Arsenal, obviously.Do you have a story that you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected] your views in the comments below.MORE: Marcus Rashford isn’t alone in his call for change – politicians could learn a lot from today’s football starsMORE: Football needs more people like Gary Neville, who know the sport can’t opt out of politicsMORE: The film and TV industry desperately need better mental health support As a footballer, I felt like I had to ‘man up’ instead of talking about my mental health Advertisement In the 80s and early 90s, it just wasn’t an industry where you’d show any emotion (Picture: Allsport/Getty)That first asking for help is so important. For me, it was the moment of surrender, and it was the moment of acceptance. I just went, ‘I can’t do this anymore’.Luckily, I shared it with the right person and I accelerated into a life of therapy and exercise, and it’s been joyful. 24 years down the road, my head is clear and my heart is one of love. It’s a very beautiful place to be in.I still do one-to-one and group therapy, I go to AA meetings three times a week, and I do a lot of daily reflection by meditating and sharing with people around me. I share my stuff on a daily basis and it sets me free. We’ve got a great family unit, we talk every night at the dinner table, I go home to my wife every day and I share my feelings with her and it enables me to get all my stuff off my chest. It’s really important that you’ve got those networks of people to talk to.My charity, Sporting Chance, was born out of my own sobriety – but also a lot of teammates ringing me up and saying ‘Tony, I’m really struggling, can you help me?’.I’m not a therapist or a counsellor, so I put a guy that I trusted and loved in place, our clinical director who’s just retired, and I said, ‘Just ring him’. And it went from there.