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Teresa Enke says mental health progress has been made

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The wife of former Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke has said progress has been made in mental health awareness over the past decade.

Enke committed suicide in 2009, having previously undergone several rounds of treatment for depression. During his career he took in spells at the likes of Benfica, Barcelona and Hannover 96, while also earning nine caps for the national team.

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One year after his death, wife Teresa Enke set up the Robert Enke Foundation which seeks to raise awareness about depression, particularly in elite sport. Reflecting on how much things have changed in the past 11 years during an interview with FIFA, she revealed she was positive that strides forward have been made.

“There is scientific proof that all my efforts have achieved something since my husband’s suicide in 2009. The acceptance of this illness is there. The team now includes psychologists and psychiatrists, and psychological training is offered to young athletes involved in competitive sport,” she explained.

“I think that’s great, and I think Robbie will be proud as he looks down from up there – proud of what has been achieved, not just by the Robert Enke Foundation but in general. People are addressing the issue and finally acknowledging just how important mental health is. And yes, it can happen to anyone.”

Enke went on to warn that the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative effect on people with mental health issues, also offering advice to anyone struggling.

“The virus is having a particularly profound impact on society. I have said several times that one of the positives of coronavirus is that it has made people more aware of mental illness – but that really is the only positive. People have been confronted with an unprecedented challenge as well as isolation and regulations outside their control which mean they haven’t even been able to decide for themselves whether or not to go out late at night, for example,” she said.

Germany's goalkeeper Robert Enke walks i

Enke started his career with Carl Zeiss Jena / JOHN MACDOUGALL/Getty Images

“If you notice that you might be struggling, it’s so important to open up to someone. If you notice that a good friend has psychological issues, I would advise them to get help. Depression is treatable if it hasn’t yet taken hold completely.

“The role of a good friend or partner is to be by someone’s side and empathise with them. Sometimes it is even as simple as sitting and listening to them.

“Depression is an illness, not a weakness. If that acceptance is there, then the person struggling feels they can open up about it. If I have cancer or a knee operation, I don’t have to worry about talking to someone about it because they instantly understand and can grasp the situation, but with depression it’s different.

“I believe that athletes can and have to be able to deal with pressure. They only need to seek help when that pressure becomes too great, or if they become ill. Every job comes with pressure, of course, but if you notice that you can’t cope with that pressure as easily as you did before, then it’s vital to make sure you have people around you who can share the load and stand alongside you.”

FIFA has launched #ReachOut, a campaign designed to raise awareness of the symptoms of mental health conditions, encourage people to seek help when they need it, and take actions every day for better mental health. With the support of past and current football players, FIFA is underlining the importance of greater awareness around mental health.

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