Soccer: Listening the key to better mental health, says ex-keeper Shannon

FILE PHOTO: Mental health advocate and former Scotland international goalkeeper Shannon Lynn poses for a photograph at Malmo, where she now works as goalkeeping coach for FC Rosengard, Sweden, March 10, 2023. REUTERS/Philip O'Connor

MALMO, Sweden (Reuters) - Former Scotland goalkeeper Shannon Lynn has called for clubs to become better listeners after a Swedish study focused on the top two men's divisions found 27% of coaches and 23% of players in Sweden showed symptoms of depression.

The study, carried out by Swedish Elite Football and the Karolinska Institute, recommended better policies and education in the area of mental wellbeing in soccer.

For Lynn, now goalkeeping coach at women's top-flight (Damallsvenskan) side FC Rosengard in Malmo, that work needs to begin in the everyday club environment - for men and women - where the players and coaches spend most of their time.

"Now more than ever, we're talking about mental health a lot more, trying to normalise it (but) we have a long way to go," Lynn, who has previously been a mental health advocate for international players union FIFPRO, told Reuters.

"I think it's a really difficult thing to get right I guess, but for me a massive part of it is - can we just listen to people more?"

Lynn speaks from a position of considerable experience.

Throughout her career, the Canadian-born shot-stopper, who was part of Scotland's 2019 World Cup squad, struggled with feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing.

The traumatic death in 2008 of the partner she describes as "the love of my life" led Lynn down a dark path and she began self-medicating with alcohol. It took the intervention of friends and family to get her back on track.

"I guess, for so many years, I knew I needed help but you kind of put it aside and you don't seek help - you feel like you're weak, or you feel like you're just not worth it," she said.

"And then in the end, when you feel more of your self-worth, you realise it's something that you actually deserve, which I believe so many people deserve, or everyone (deserves)."


Lynn stopped drinking alcohol and began to rebuild her sense of self-worth through therapy – a process that was not all doom and gloom, especially when it came to dealing with her penchant for self-criticism.

"It's a bit comedic - in my therapy, (I had to) find a voice for the mean things you say to yourself, to find a funny voice," she revealed, smiling broadly.

"In the end, the one we chose was Donald Duck's voice for me. You say those things that you are saying to yourself in that voice, and then you're like, 'That's ridiculous'!"

Asked what advice she might give to others or to her younger self, the 37-year-old paused.

"I guess it's open up. Talk about how you feel ... a lot of times when we say things out loud, or we say it to someone else, it takes some of the edge off, it takes the heaviness of it," she explained.

Lynn's openness and willingness to talk about her struggles is much appreciated in her club environment at Rosengard.

"Shannon is a fantastic person and coach – she sees all the players, not just her goalkeepers, and she contributes with so much joy and knowledge," Rosengard's Sweden international Olivia Schough told Reuters.

In a results-based business that plays out very much in the public eye, Lynn stressed the importance of players and coaches giving themselves credit for the things they do.

"If you can genuinely say that you're doing your very, very best, then yeah, no-one puts you down for that," she said.

"You're trying your best, you know, and that should be enough."

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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