Mental Health Week: Chelsea’s Millie Bright on how injury led to career doubts

Mental Health Week: Chelsea's Millie Bright on how injury led to career doubts

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Millie Bright went from leading England in a World Cup final to missing over five months of the Women’s Super League season with a knee injury.

Bright says it “hurts” she has missed most of manager Emma Hayes’ final campaign at Chelsea, while her team-mates have suffered disappointment in the Women’s Champions League and domestic cup competitions.

Footballers experience the highs and lows of everyday life, as well as the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with the game.

For Mental Health Awareness Week – which runs until 19 May – Bright has discussed how injury setbacks led to her questioning whether her “career was done”.

“There’s been ups and downs. Most people probably won’t ever know about the downs. I should probably be a little bit more open about those,” Bright told BBC Sport when asked about her mental health experiences.

“I don’t want to accept that I’ve been injured and I’ve missed most of the last season under Emma. That’s been really hard to take. I’ve not been able to contribute to the team when I can see they have been struggling.

“This season more than ever has been extremely difficult. I’ve had plenty of moments where I’m like: ‘Eurgh, shall I just call the season and have a break and not try any more?’

“I’ve even thought: ‘Is that my career done? Shall I just call it a day?’

“I’ve not really told anyone that to be honest. It’s tough.”

Bright, 30, joined Chelsea in 2014 and has played under Hayes for a decade.

The Blues captain – who led the Lionesses at last year’s World Cup – says Hayes has been a “massive” support for her whenever she has needed to talk through problems – and it is reciprocated.

“I have this thing where I feel I need to protect the ones around me,” said Bright.

“As athletes, I think we’re driven into being thick-skinned and being tough on the outside – so we don’t show emotions.

“I let my walls down, but only with people like Levi [her fiance], my family or Emma Hayes. She knows when I feel like I’m about to explode.

“She’s like, ‘It’s written on your face, I can see it. Tell me what’s wrong.’

“It annoys me that she knows even when I’ve not said anything! But it’s been massive.”

‘You don’t have to be a superhero’

Bright has been a role model for many during her successful career with the Lionesses and Chelsea.

She hopes to use her platform to encourage others to seek support when they need it and to ask for help.

“Now more than ever in this world you have to reach out. It’s so important that you tell somebody. It allows you to gather your emotions, reset and think clearly,” said Bright.

“It helps you know that you have people around you, that can support you and help you when you need it.

“Sometimes when you’re struggling, you feel so alone – but there’s people in the same position and probably not really knowing where to go.”

Bright believes reaching out is the hardest part of tackling mental health issues.

She said: “Just kickstart that conversation to say: ‘I’m struggling.’

“You don’t have to be a superhero and save yourself. Someone else can do that.

“I imagine there are so many people around every person that loves and cares for them. It’s easier to fight with people around you than doing it alone.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this story, BBC Action Line has links to organisations that can offer help and advice.

You can also go to bbc.co.uk/mentalwellbeing for more stories, information, inspiration and tips around mental wellbeing.

Related Topics

  • England Women’s Football Team
  • Football
  • Women’s Football
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