Irish League referee Lee Tavinder named in Queen's Birthday Honours
Irish League referee Lee Tavinder has been named in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
The Irish FA's Referee Development Manager has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to Mental Health in Northern Ireland.
Tavinder's job, in which he works with ex and current offenders through the IFA's 'Stay Onside's programme, includes mental health talks which, as he told the Belfast Telegraph in October, are a passion.
"We take a look at how mental health issues and sport come together while looking at individuals including George Best, Gary Speed and Paul Gascoigne," he said.
"My personal story is in there too as I've had mental health issues since I was 13-years-old. I didn't disclose them to anybody until I was 33.
"I suffered from anxiety which led to depression and I still take medication. In 2015, I tried to take my own life. I was refereeing in the Premier League and working at the Irish FA but no one knew I had any issues, not even my wife or close family."
Tavinder was born in Stoke-on-Trent and began refereeing at just 16-years-old. He moved to Northern Ireland in 2009 and became a top level Irish League referee in 2015.
Using his own experiences with anxiety and depression to try and help others, Tavinder offered the following advice:
"Talking about it is great but it's just a start and it's a marathon, not a sprint. I thought if I talked everything would be fine but it was the opposite.
"I felt ashamed and a failure. You have to start the process but there's more options like medication, counselling and support.
"It was 18 months until I became 'content' with where I was after the incident. There were bad days but the support network was vital."
Belfast Telegraph Digital