In recent weeks mental health has been at the forefront for many Aston Villa fans thanks to the work of Tom Cowley. It’s great to see that manager Dean Smith is willing to discuss openly experiences of mental health issues with his friend, and how far he went to get him help.
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Dean Smith has spoken honestly in an interview in the press regarding his ‘best friend in football’ struggling with his mental health, in an important statement to how the game can affect and has effected a number of current and former players.
At a charity game that was organised in memory of Nick Mowl, a semi-professional player who sadly took his own life after battling with mental health issues, which saw Birmingham City manager Gary Monk involved, as well as former Aston Villa player Gareth Barry, Smith divulged information about how the issue has had an impact on his own life.
He spoke frankly about Martin Ling, who is now an avid speaker regarding mental health, who Dean Smith had been working alongside at Leyton Orient, and who gave Smith his first coaching role.
Dean Smith then spoke about the measures he went to try and aid his friend, saying that when Ling was in the Priory and the pair would go for walks, that he would position himself between Ling and the road – just to be safe.
He also detailed a time that one of Ling’s friends called him and told him that he was in a bad way – in a time where Smith was manager at Walsall – and the current Aston Villa manager drove to York and watched Ling throughout the game before speaking to him afterwards, realising he was not well and phoning his wife so that the former Cambridge United manager could get more help.
There’s one key quote from Dean Smith in this interview, in which he says:
“Nobody knows what goes on in another person’s mind.
It’s important to recognise that mental health discriminates against no one.”
In a time where social media has seen a number of Aston Villa fans come forward about their struggled with mental health through the exceptional work of Tom Cowley and his blog, it’s good to see that the club’s manager is willing to speak so openly about how the mental health of his friend have affected him so heavily.