If you were one of the millions of viewers who tuned in to watch the Women’s World Cup in France this summer, or if you’ve been following the debate around equal pay in women’s football, you’re probably familiar with the name Carly Telford. Now, the England goalkeeper is leveraging the hype around her sport to put another topic on the table: that of mental health.
Since losing her mother last year, Telford has been a rare example of a footballer talking openly about mental health, doing so in the hopes of starting a much-needed conversation in the sport she loves. “I’m not afraid to talk about it because it helps me,” says the 31-year-old goalie, whose mother Yvonne passed away last July. “Sleep is sometimes the hardest thing to do when you have so much going on – trying to switch off is quite difficult for some people. I’m pretty good, but I did struggle sleeping at the end of last year when I lost my mom,” she explains.
According to Telford, it was really only when she started speaking about her loss that she was better able to manage all the thoughts going through her head. As a footballer, being fit and well has always been a high priority, but losing her mother made Telford realize just how important it is to take care of your mental health as well. Since then, she says, “a lot of the things I’ve been doing outside of football is making sure I’m in the right frame of mind,” which could be something as simple as going for walks with her dog.
“What you don’t realize as a footballer is that you spend most of your time away from your family,” says Telford. “We do live very exciting lives – lives I’d never want to change – but at the same time, looking back on the past five years, I’ve probably seen my mom and dad a handful of times, if I’m lucky.”
And it’s not just women’s football Telford wants to bring mental health awareness to – the same needs to be done for the men’s game. In fact, she believes it’s an even bigger issue for the male players because they may not have the same attitude as women. “As women, we lean on each other a lot more and we’re a lot more open with each other,” says Telford. “I remember when my mom passed, the whole team came up to Newcastle to attend the funeral, when half of them had never even met her before. They had a game the next day against Juventus and they all came up – I was in shock.”
By keeping this conversation going, Telford hopes to make other players – both men and women – aware of the importance of mental health and to encourage others to come forth with their own stories.