Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Rio Ferdinand on coping with panic and anxiety: “I thought it was a weakness for a man to show emotions”

rio ferdinand grief.jpg

It is no secret that there is a persistent social taboo around mental health: a few years ago, Time to Change surveyed 2,000 people across the UK – and they found that admitting to a mental health condition was deemed harder to confessing to alcoholism or bankruptcy.

However, things are beginning to change – and a lot of that has to do with those in the public eye who have chosen to be open about their own battles with mental wellness. Fearne CottonRyan Reynolds, Selena GomezDemi Lovato and Ellie Goulding are amongst those who have done exactly this, in a bid to help pave the way to a better understanding of the issues faced by so many.


Read more: Selena Gomez’s speech about her mental health battle is so powerful


Now, hoping that his honesty will encourage further important conversations about mental health, former England footballer Rio Ferdinand has opened up about the helplessness and pain he felt after he lost his wife, Rebecca Ellison, to breast cancer in 2015. She was just 34 years old.

Explaining that the macho culture of football made it incredibly difficult for him to open up about how he was feeling, he told the Radio Times: “I sit in my bedroom and cry but actually talking about feelings is different.

“I am from a dressing room culture, I was closed off emotionally and I thought it was a weakness for a man to show emotions.”

Rio Ferdinand and his late wife, Rebecca

Rio Ferdinand and his late wife, Rebecca

The 38-year-old continued: “Initially when I tried to get help, and was offered counselling, I just thought ‘yeah but has this happened to you personally?’ I thought if you had not lost your own spouse… I thought it was like someone who has not passed their driving test taking you for a driving lesson. But that was my own ignorance.”


Read more: This TV show has been praised for its startlingly realistic portrayal of an anxiety attack


When asked if he feels guilty about being the parent left alive, a visibly emotional Ferdinand said: “Yes, probably, yes. Because mums are different.”

Ferdinand – who has, in the past, worked with Heads Together and Prince Harry to raise awareness about mental health – has also revealed that he found himself in a “dark place” after Rebecca passed away.

“At the beginning I was drinking a lot at night,” he told The Sun. “I’d come down in the middle of the night and drink too much in the first three or four months.

“It was a car crash. I was just lucky I had my kids, if I’m honest.”

But although his three children – Lorenz, 10, Tate, eight, and Tia, five – helped him to get through the difficult times, the former footballer admits that it wasn’t easy adjusting to life as a single parent. He regularly found himself plagued with anxiety, and even suffered panic attacks as he struggled to get to grips with the new reality of the family’s day-to-day life.


Read more: Comedian shares moving post on realities of grief after wife's sudden death


“When they first went back to school I woke up in the morning scrambling around,” said Ferdinand.

“It was the first time they've ever been late for school but I was having a panic attack on my own in the house.

“I had to go into a room on my own and sit there and think, ‘What happens now?’ Then I've got one of them in the car going, 'Mum wouldn't do this'.

“You don't know what to do. You sit there.”

Ferdinand has filmed a documentary about his struggle to cope with grief, Rio: Being Mum and Dad, which is due to air on BBC1 on 28 March at 9pm.

He hopes that the film will encourage others who have lost someone to seek help and communicate about their feelings.


Read more: Fearne Cotton opens up about depression: “There were massive warning signs”


It is natural to experience feelings of grief, anxiety, and helplessness after you lose someone you love.

However the NHS have said that you should seek help or expert advice if any of the following apply to you:

  • You don't feel able to cope with overwhelming emotions or daily life.
  • The intense emotions aren't subsiding.
  • You're not sleeping.
  • You have symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  • Your relationships are suffering.
  • You're having sexual problems.
  • You're becoming accident-prone.

If you recognise any of the signs on this list, then the NHS strongly advises that you visit your GP, who can advise you about support services, refer you to a counsellor, offer self-care tips, or suggest a number of treatments. 

You can find out more information – including a series of approved self-care tips – on the Mind website. Alternatively, contact Cruse Bereavement Care (0808 808 1677) or Samaritans (116 123).

Images: BBC One

Related

heartbreak.jpg

Dying author pens heartbreaking online dating profile for her husband

this-is-us-600x347.png

This Is Us star asks viewers to reach out to lost loved ones

love actually emma thompson.jpg

Why Emma Thompson won’t do Love Actually 2 without Alan Rickman

Comments

More

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From the Beckhams' proud moment to Serena Williams' fierce posing

by Nicola Colyer
28 Jun 2017

Michelle Rodriguez threatens to quit Fast & Furious over lack of women

“I just might have to say goodbye”

by Amy Swales
28 Jun 2017

The decision to name Mr Big was controversial, says SATC producer

It was a last-minute script choice

by Anna Brech
28 Jun 2017

“Why women are all beauty pageant contestants to Donald Trump”

“I bet she treats you well”

by Anna Pollitt
28 Jun 2017

Serena Williams’ reaction to her pregnancy test is refreshingly honest

Everyone needs to listen to what the tennis champion has to say

by Kayleigh Dray
28 Jun 2017

Jennifer Lawrence proves she’s a badass dog mum when man grabs her pet

Don’t ever try to touch her dog without permission

by Kayleigh Dray
28 Jun 2017

Amy Poehler is here to fight for your right to be an idiot

Because why should women always have to be the sensible ones?

by Moya Crockett
27 Jun 2017

OITNB’s Julie Lake on how she transforms into the delightful Angie

This is what the cast go through to inhabit their characters

by Amy Swales
27 Jun 2017

Serena Williams hits back at claim she couldn’t beat top male players

John McEnroe said Williams would be “like 700” in the men’s rankings.

by Moya Crockett
27 Jun 2017

Juror in Bill Cosby case blames victim Andrea Constand's outfit

It's 2017 and we're still blaming sexual violence on how women dress

by Elle Griffiths
27 Jun 2017