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Izzy Brown decided to reach out to a young supporter who bravely opened up about his mental health struggles on social media - and it highlights the difference even one conversation can make.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Preston fan Gareth shared details about his battle with depression and anxiety.
"I was in the darkest patch of my life," he tells SPORTbible. "I’ve never spoken about my own mental health before, not even to my family. And I felt like if I didn’t reach out, it would’ve been a real problem for me with only one outcome."
At 4:28am, Gareth opened up on having frequent panic attacks and being so upset with being unhappy that he often stays up until 5 or 6am.
But throughout the dark times, football has helped him more than anything - in particular his beloved Preston North End; a club he goes to watch on a regular basis, despite the four-hour round trip.
"The dark thoughts are really getting to me and it’s hard to ignore them at this stage," Gareth wrote on Twitter.
"An issue with me is that I feel alone and that there is no one there for me, to be by my side and help me get better. In reality there, is but it’s hard for me to open up."
Hi, I know a lot of you don’t know me personally, but I’d just like to have a talk. I’m suffering majorly at the moment with depression and frequent panic attacks. I find myself staying up (not by choice) until 5-6am every night upset crying and just overall unhappy 1/6— Gareth (@GarethPNE_) December 21, 2021
Gareth went on to speak about Preston midfielder Izzy Brown and how his situation has made a big impact on his life.
Last week, the body of Brown's close friend Dominic Yarwood was found by police in Salford, 24 hours after being reported missing. Just a day before, Brown shared an urgent appeal to find his friend.
"The tragic death of Izzy’s brother Dom has really opened up to me how much impact an act has, not just on you but those around you. It has shown how much people really care." he wrote.
One more night with you brother. I can’t put how I feel into words right now, but I promise the world will know you are the kindest caring loving person ever, the will know Dom Yarwood I know, you my brother are one of a kind. I’m sorry man💔🖤🤍 pic.twitter.com/a8Pttjik4r— Isaiah Brown (@izzyjaybrown) December 17, 2021
At 4:58am, 30 minutes after Gareth's original post, Izzy Brown was alerted to the tweet. He responded straight away.
"Private message me your phone number mate, I will give you a call." he wrote. "I’m here anytime, for anyone so please reach out and speak to me or somebody, it doesn’t have to be a professional it could be a complete stranger.
"You never know what one conversation could do."
Moments later, the pair were speaking on the phone. Gareth was shaking throughout the entire conversation but Izzy's words changed his life.
It was only a 10 minute chat but that made all the difference.
"As soon as he saw my tweet, he rang me instantly." Gareth tells us. "The very first thing he did was ask how I was. He asked what was going on that was affecting me and offered all the support he could give.
"He also offered to let me keep his number and text him on an occasional basis.
"He made it clear that I shouldn’t view him as Izzy Brown the footballer but I should see him as a friend. He’s even rang me a few times after that phone call over the last few days to check up on how I was doing."
Izzy has been one of Gareth's favourite players since the former Chelsea man joined the ranks at Deepdale. "It feels like a dream," he says. "Without his help I would’ve been in a much worser place at the minute and that’s all credit to him."
The 24-year-old midfielder says their conversation can hopefully help many more people going through the same situation.
If you are struggling, please reach out and talk to someone.
Here's a list of the leading mental health helplines and services that are just a call away in the UK:
- Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and will talk to you about anything that's bothering you. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email [email protected] or visit some branches in person. You can also call the Welsh Language Line on 0300 123 3011 from 7pm to 11pm every day.
- The Mix take calls from under 25s on 0808 808 4994 from Sunday to Friday, 2pm to 11pm. You can request support by email using the form on The Mix website or using their crisis text messenger service.
- Papyrus HOPELINEUK is there for under 35s struggling with suicidal feelings, or those who are concerned about a young person who might be struggling. You can call them on 0800 068 4141 on weekdays from 9am to 10pm, on weekends from 2pm to 10pm, and on bank holidays from 2pm to 10pm. You can also email [email protected] or text 07786 209 697.
- The Nightline website allows students to see if their university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too.
- Switchboard is there for people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and can be reached on 0300 330 0630 from 10am to 10pm every day. You can also email here or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.
- The Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L). is available for those who live in Wales and can be contacted on 0800 132 737, which is open 24/7. You can also text 'help' followed by a question to 81066.
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