LIFESTYLE

Rio Ferdinand Tackles The Topic Of Mental Health And Why It's Crucial To Open Up To Friends

'It doesn’t just help you, it helps all the people close [to you].'

06/04/2017 00:01 | Updated 06 April 2017

Footballer Rio Ferdinand has starred in a poignant short film discussing the first time he talked about his grief with a close friend, in a bid to spark more conversations around mental health.

The father-of-three lost his wife Rebecca to breast cancer in May 2015 and has since starred in a documentary about his journey called ‘Being Mum And Dad’.

He is the latest star to appear in Heads Together’s new series of films, which feature people from all walks of life talking about the life-changing conversations that helped them cope with their mental health problems.

In the clip, he opens up to his business partner, agent and close friend of 20 years Jamie Moralee about how it took them half a year to finally discuss his grief and the immense feeling of relief he experienced after that barrier had been broken down.

Heads Together

YouGov research shows that eight out of 10 people who have talked about their own mental health feel that it has helped them.

The hope is that people who watch the Heads Together films will be encouraged to have their own conversations off the back of them.

In the latest clip released by the charity, Jamie said it was six months after Rebecca’s death that he finally managed to pluck up the courage to ask Rio how he was.

He said he had started talking to his mate about his memories of Rebecca and what a “fantastic lady she was”, and it finally opened a crucial dialogue between them.

“After about 15-20 minutes I think we ended up crying our eyes out on the beach,” he recalled. 

Rio said that for the first few months after his wife’s death, he was purely focused on his children and “the basic stuff”, like getting them to school on time, ensuring everyone else was okay and organising Rebecca’s funeral. 

As such, he didn’t really make time to focus on himself and his grief. 

“You don’t really look at yourself and think about chatting,” he said. “I didn’t really plan a moment to speak, you just mentioned something and it triggered that chain of events and free-flowing conversation.”

He described the moment he finally opened up about his pain as being a “release”.

“I think in these situations you need to have the ability to be able to get your feelings out,” he said. “It doesn’t just help you, it helps all the people close [to you]. 

“They then feel more comfortable, because everyone just feels awkward.”

The pair agreed that speaking out and getting over the initial awkwardness was fundamental in breaking down barriers between them and encouraging constructive conversations going forward.

The director of the film, Sam Blair, said he found the honesty of the pair “both moving and insightful”.

“I feel honoured to have been invited into that process,” he added. 

Katharine Welby-Roberts, the daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury, also stars in the latest release of films discussing her depression with her mum.

In a statement issued when the series launched, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who spearheaded Heads Together, said: “Attitudes to mental health are at a tipping point. We hope these films show people how simple conversations can change the direction of an entire life.”

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