[MLS SPOTLIGHT]At 33, Irish international Andy O’Brien is nearing the end of his career but feels he is a good place. He is using his time with the Vancouver Whitecaps to shine light on a mental health issues in soccer. He played more than 300 games in the English Premier League but only late in his career did his battle with depression come to the forefront. “Getting help is one thing I’m passionate about people doing,” he now says. “I’ve had situations in the past where I should have understood myself better."
In retrospect, O'Brien should have seen the signs.
"My reaction to certain things was quite hostile," he said. “I’m in a better place, but I do feel for people who are suffering.”
O'Brien was speaking as part of Bell Let’s Talk Day to raise awareness across Canada about mental health issues.
In 2011, Leeds United accused him of refusing to play but it later offered public support for O'Brien when his condition became evident. O'Brien left Leeds to join the 'Caps in MLS and was a key to their defense in the second half of the 2012 season but not before he received help at the Sporting Chance clinic, founded by former England captain Tony Adams, who battled alcoholism.
O'Brien, who says he was anxious at a young age, feels lucky he can still play -- and play with the game in the proper perspective.
“I can look back on it now and be a bit more relaxed," he said, "and look at it a bit more constructively, because at the time, I didn’t really see too much light at the end of the tunnel.”