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It's been a difficult year for many people suffering from the effects of lockdown.
The uncertainty, loneliness and lack of physical contact caused by isolation has had a profound impact on our mental health, with the nature of the global pandemic taking a huge toll on our overall wellbeing.
A recent study found an increase in teenagers who believe they are suffering from depression, with 27 per cent of people between the ages of 13 and 19 feeling 'nervous, anxious or on edge'.
People of all ages have had to adapt and take comfort from the small things, such as playing video games.
In fact, playing video games with friends has become a vital escape during lockdown, with studies finding that gaming has helped with our mental health during such a difficult period.
Many have found comfort through gaming in their daily lives - including one young man who has bravely opened up about how Football Manager saved him from suicide.
Back in 2019, Will was going through a really tough period in his life when a long-term relationship ended.
The 16-year-old's mental health quickly deteriorated following the break-up. He was really down about his overall situation.
"I was young, down on my luck, swamped at school and really frustrated." Will told SPORTbible. "I was bored of monotony and was sad and lonely. I just felt trapped and life had me in a chokehold. I was lost, frustrated and upset."
It got to the stage where Will had thought about ending his own life. He even wrote a suicide note and was preparing for the worst.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about it." he said. "I didn't want to cause pain."
Things were steadily getting worse and worse until a friend handed him a copy of Football Manager 19 as a gift.
It would turn out to be a life-changing moment.
"At the time I didn't think much of it, but he told me to give it a go." Will says.
"I wasn't very good to be honest but I wanted to get better at the game and it helped me heal in real life. It was that perseverance that taught me so much. It was a difficult learning curve but a welcome one."
He, in his own words, was 'hooked' by the popular game; so much so that he won three Champions League titles during a trophy-laden, eight year spell at Aston Villa.
"Looking back at that point in my life, it was so important." he explains. "I was optimistic about the chance to try something new one last time. It taught me it's not worth giving up. - that it's always worth going again."
Two years on and Will is still a massive Football Manager fan. He is currently managing Ternana Calcio in the third tier of Italian football; a save he describes as an "interesting" one.
His mental health is getting progressively better, too.
He is taking things one day at a time and, despite feeling the effects of the COVID pandemic like millions of others, he says, "I'm still here. Life is good."
At the end of our chat, the 16-year-old also wanted to send a message to the creators of Football Manager for the impact they have made on his life.
"I want to say thank you. It's helped me decide what I want to do with my life and work in football. I am endlessly grateful." Will says, before delivering a cheeky line to finish.
"I'd also probably try and haggle an apprenticeship or something if I bumped into them to be honest!"
We're grateful to Will for sharing his story with us and talking about the mental health challenges he has faced.
If you're experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They're open from 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you're not comfortable talking on the phone.
Or, if you've been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, please don't suffer alone. Call Samaritans for free on their anonymous 24-hour phone line on 116 123.
Featured Image Credit: Football Manager/PA
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