Michail Antonio delivers an important message about mental health as the West Ham striker opens up about his personal struggles.

Mental health affects us all at some point in our lives. Obviously it has a greater impact on some more than others, but it is something as a society we are still not perceptive enough of.

Suffering from poor mental health comes in a variety of forms and this can make it very hard to realise that someone you’d never expect to have those issue could be struggling.

Michail Antonio has always come across as charismatic, funny and an overall joyful person. Unfortunately, he has recently revealed that the latter isn’t necessarily the case and that football only added to the weight on his shoulders.

“I was going through my divorce and stuff [when West Ham won the conference league] , and I honestly couldn’t get my head around it,” he bravely explained to the High Performance podcast. “After we won, the whole team went out, the gaffer went out, got steaming, a couple of boys didn’t sleep for two days, just got drunk for two days.”

“I was asleep on the coach and went back to the hotel. I was just mentally drained because of everything that was going on outside of my football and then I went back to the hotel and went to sleep while everyone was out partying. It wasn’t until probably December where I was in a better place where I was like ‘Oh my God, I’ve won a European championship’.”

However, it wasn’t just in Prague that he was feeling this way as he recounts one particular game in December 2022 where he felt particularly bad and how that spiralled afterwards into him wanting to get injured.

“During the game, I was like, ‘I’m really not enjoying this’. I just felt quite negative. I’m a very positive person myself.”

“I didn’t score from December until I think it was March, April time. And I just felt run-down. And then I went away with Jamaica because I was enjoying football with Jamaica for some strange reason. But I actually prayed for an injury. I was like, ‘I just want to get injured, I want some time off’.”

“And then I went away with Jamaica and I did my medial. I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m 33. I can’t afford to be performing this way, otherwise I’m not going to get another contract’.”

“As soon as your life depends on it, as soon as you have people constantly berating you and criticising you, it becomes a job. So, it doesn’t matter how good it is, it doesn’t matter how much you love the game, it becomes an actual job for you.”

So, how did Antonio begin to get out of this dark place? How did someone fight their way back from the darkest depths of their mind? He reached out for help.

“I started therapy because I was really struggling. And how I grew up, it was never a thing. I thought therapy was for crazy people. But therapy changed my life. At first it was awkward, I’m not going to lie,” he confessed.

“I [use to to go to] football, and I could black it out for the two hours that I was there or the four hours that I was there. But then my life was a bit turned upside-down because obviously I’m splitting up with my missus, my wife, and also, I’m not performing on the pitch and things are just not going well for me.”

“And then I’m a person where I’d never cry. And as I was talking to him, I just burst into tears. It was uncontrollable. That gave me some type of relief. And then like my chest felt like clear.”

“Because growing up there was a lot of traumas that I dealt with,” Antonio concluded. “So, I avoid sitting within myself. And that’s one thing that I learned via therapy because it was true.”

Mental health is a silent killer. It’s an almost unspoken epidemic amongst everyone, but particularly amongst men.

Antonio’s admission explains a lot of what we’ve seen from him over the past two years and it is clear he’s starting to enjoy his football again. Let his words be a message to not suffer in silence. Reach out to those around you or to a professional. It’s ok to need help and you’re absolutely not alone. The quicker we end this stigma around mental health the better for absolutely everyone.