I’m a peer worker. I love peer work. Since I found peer work it’s been a never ending deep dive into the practice of peer work, the history of peer work and the contexts in which peer work can be useful. I regularly find myself driving along listening to a podcast yelling “PEER WORK!” at the people on the radio (who generally seem disinterested or downright ignorant to my yelling.)
Yesterday I listened to The Guardian’s excellent podcast – Football Weekly. Yesterday’s episode was about mental health in football after the tragic death of Jeremy Wisten (this hit me quite hard yesterday as I drove along). They had a footballer and a journalist who both have lived experiences of ‘mental health issues’. Both had agreed to come onto the podcast and talk about them.
And it was good. And helpful. And useful. And all of that stuff – the ‘If I can help just one person by telling my story…’ stuff that often pops up when a celebrity decides to share the fact that they are human and, as such, have problems and negative experiences just like the rest of us.
As usual, Football Weekly does a good job of dealing with complex issues with sensitivity and an obvious recognition that they don’t know everything and they don’t have the answers – but try to ask some useful questions and speak to the people that know. They split the show into three parts, all of which are worth listening to.
For me, the ‘best’ part of the podcast was the third section. They talked about strategies for coping and they talked about what others could do to support people who were not travelling well. And there were really practical things such as ‘just being there’ and not putting pressure on ourselves to fix everything for the other person. The conversation seemed organic and natural, it seemed… peer.
I especially enjoyed the views of Archie Rhind-Tutt who had some great reflections on how to support people as well as the questions posed by the host Max Rushden around whether he’d done the right thing in the amount of contact he made during the time Archie was struggling. It showed a worry that I’ve previously agonised over – about what is the right level of support to offer someone if they’re not in great shape. It takes bravery to ask whether the support was okay, especially in such a public forum but it was done with charm and honesty.
Another interesting aspect was a former footballer talking about clubs having psychologists on board but no-one wanting to go and speak to them due to being seen as ‘weak’ or ‘vulnerable’. And if one person doesn’t break that cycle then it’s a pointless exercise – however footballers, and people generally, will open up to people like them who can share an experience or understand what it’s like being in that particular ‘bubble’ – and that’s what was wonderful about yesterday’s appearance by Marvin Sordell and his frankness about his struggles as a footballer.
So if a footballer wouldn’t open up to a psychologist, would they open up to another footballer who is open to sharing his or her story and discussing ways to work through and connect in the context of a relationship?