Sports

England player Ben Chilwell has experienced his share of setbacks in recent years and on Tuesday said he had benefited from being open about his mental health.

Now he is urging more players to follow his lead.

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“I have been talking to someone for a few years now and the stigma around it is silly, really, especially with men and men in football in particular,” Chilwell said. “As someone who has been talking to someone for a few years now and the way that it has helped me, it can definitely help everyone. The stigma around it is something that needs to go.”

Chelsea defender Chilwell is back in the England squad after a hamstring injury ruled him out of last year’s World Cup.

Chilwell was part of Three Lions coach Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2020, but was forced to spend some of that tournament in isolation after coming into contact with Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour, who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. He didn’t see any action in that tournament as England reached the final and lost on penalties to Italy.

The 26-year-old full-back also missed a large part of last season due to an ACL injury.

“Mentally it’s very challenging,” he said ahead of England’s European Championship qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine. “All footballers go through periods of their career where things are mentally challenging and you’ve got to be resilient, be strong and try to come out of the other side stronger.

“That’s the way I’ve tried to look at the injuries I’ve had, missing the World Cup, trying to spin them into positive situations where I can better myself mentally, physically.”

Chilwell watched on as a fan as England lost to France in the World Cup quarterfinals. Despite the nation’s earliest elimination under Southgate, Chilwell was encouraged by what he saw.

“We’ve got to move on and take confidence from the World Cup,” he said. “I think the France game, in a positive way, the boys should look and think they were the better team and should have won.

“We can take that confidence going forward that we are now facing the big teams in the later rounds of competitions.”

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