Paul Merson opens up on coping with mental health and life in lockdown

‘Some days have been really hard… with mental health issues, the last thing you want to do is isolate’: Paul Merson opens up on coping with life in lockdown and how he tries to ‘fill the void’ without his usual punditry work

  • In recent months, Paul Merson has spoken candidly about mental health battles
  • He has spoken of how lockdown and isolation has impacted his overall wellbeing
  • Merson says football’s eventual return will offer a huge lift to much of society 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Paul Merson has opened up on how he has struggled with ‘really, really bad days’ during lockdown as part of his ongoing efforts to maintain a positive level of mental health.

Earlier this year, Merson revealed that in the last 12 months he has battled with depression, a gambling addiction and issues with drugs and alcohol that left him feeling suicidal.

Speaking on the Sky Football Show on Tuesday, Merson admitted that with football postponed indefinitely during the coronavirus outbreak and with less punditry work going, he has endured times where he has struggled to stay positive.

Paul Merson has opened up on his mental health battles during the current lockdown

Merson said that he misses his usual work as a pundit for Sky Sports during the season

Merson is a regular on Soccer Saturday and also Sky’s Monday show, called The Debate

‘Some days have been really hard if I am really honest,’ Merson said. ‘With mental health issues, the last thing you want to do is isolate.

‘Football is massive, it was a massive part of my life when I left school at 16 years of age. Fortunately I have two little kids age two and five that keep me busy but I miss the football on the Saturdays and The Debate on Monday. 

‘When I’m not feeling good, football gives me something to look forward to, I see the lads and sit down and talk about something that I love and that isn’t there at the moment. ‘

You have to fill a void. I am 52 now and I left school at 16. I’m getting used to doing stuff, I have just learned how to do this (video call) on the phone but it has been hard, really, really bad days.’

Merson explained that he has people who he can turn to in recovery that help him. Presenter David Jones added that while lockdown is in place, they will welcome him on the show on a more regular basis to discuss the game.

‘I have friends that I talk to in recovery that I have to pick the phone up and tell them how I am feeling. When I see the phone ring and I don’t pick it up that is when I know I am feeling really bad.

Merson said that he has people in recovery who he speaks to about how he has been feeling

Sky Football host David Jones (top left) said that Merson will be welcome on the show regularly

‘I am so fortunate I have a garden, that is such a massive thing, especially when you have a two-year-old and a five-year-old. I am really fortunate and lucky and I know I have my demons and bad days but I have to be appreciative, I play a million games of football with Freddie every day and my left foot is getting better.’

Merson explained how he believes the return of football, when it is safe to bring the game back, will offer a massive life to thousands of people across the country. 

‘Football is a massive part of everyone’s life, same with rugby and cricket,’ he said. ‘It takes peoples mind off life and gives someone something to look forward to. 

‘It takes people out of the way they think and something to look forward to, it is massive and plays a massive part in people’s life and when we get it back it will be better but the most important thing is to keep people safe.

‘People say when I go to the shops, “when is it coming back?” – everybody is waiting for football, everyone who loves it. Everybody wants to get it back, it is such a massive thing, it is a big part of everybody’s life. From when I left school up to now, that is the same for people who don’t even play and it is filling that void. 

‘I just cant wait, it will help people and for me it is the greatest sport in the world.’

In January, alongside a campaign for the third round of the FA Cup, Merson spoke candidly about how he has struggled over the last 12 months.

Writing in his Daily Star column on January 3, Merson said: ‘On Monday I’ll have been sober for a year. But this time last year, I wanted to kill myself.

Merson enjoyed a playing career with teams such as Aston Villa, Arsenal and Portsmouth

Viewers took to social media to praise Merson’s honesty during his appearance on the show

‘I couldn’t go on any more. I just couldn’t see a way out. I had the tablets in my hand. I didn’t take enough to do anything but I had them there. With vodka. It was scary.

‘It was only because of the kids really, and my wife, and a little bit of consciousness, that I didn’t.

‘It’s only now I know. I have an illness. I have a mental illness. I’ve accepted that now. Before, I used to beat myself up all the time.’

Merson has struggled with addiction issues throughout his life and turned to drink when his first marriage ended in 2006.

In 2019, he took part in the ITV show Harry’s Heroes where he spoke honestly about how addiction has impacted his life. 

After Merson’s admissions over his difficulties on Sky Football on Tuesday, fans took to Twitter to offer him support and encouragement.

‘Paul Merson on Sky Football, absolutely spot on with mental health, football and coping,’ wrote on fan. Another said: ‘Paul Merson on #SkyFootballShow very open on dealing with mental health during lockdown. Well worth a watch.’



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