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Celtic's Neil Lennon: ‘Depression is a thing you should never hide away from’

By Steven Beacom

Love him or loathe him, and he does tend to generate those emotions, especially in Scotland, you can't help but admire Neil Lennon for the way he has dealt with his battle with depression.

The 40-year-old from Lurgan has been an inspiration, from eloquently talking about the illness to helping youngsters at Celtic who have suffered too.

Lennon revealed in his autobiography ‘Man and Bhoy’, published five years ago, that he had suffered from depression since 2000.

The year before in 1999 Stan Collymore admitted that depression had hit him though John Gregory, his manager at Aston Villa at the time, gave the striker short shrift asking “what has he got to depressed about earning £20,000 per week?”

Mercifully times have changed. Now there is a greater understanding of the condition, thanks to well known sporting figures like Lennon, Collymore, New Zealand rugby hero John Kirwan, England cricket star Marcus Trescothick and our own brilliant snooker ace Mark Allen talking openly about their problems.

Recently the Celtic boss told how he had spoken to some kids at the club who were going through a tough time with the illness. He has been praised by the PFA for that and his honesty when discussing how he has come to terms with trying to overcome his demons.

“Suffering from depression is a struggle and it is an illness which doesn't manifest itself to the naked eye. You can't see it. People who suffer from it work hard not to give it away. It plays tricks with your mind,” says the former Northern Ireland midfielder.

Things only got better for Lennon when he started to confide in friends and he advises fellow sufferers to go down the same path.

He says: “You feel you don't want to burden anyone with your problems, but now I would say to anyone suffering don't hide away from it or lock yourself in a room.

“I would say to people who are suffering, whether they are in football or not, to seek help and talk to somebody, be it a professional person or a loved one. It's nothing to be ashamed about.

“The best thing I've found over the years to cope with it is to talk about it, get professional help and if there is a tablet you have to take that suits you, then do that.

“I've felt a lot better since I've been able to talk about it. It's a fantastic feeling when you come out the other side of it and it's a place you don't want to go to again.”

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