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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 9 April, 2020

'Brendan Rodgers stepped in. I owe a thank you to him' - Griffiths on depression battle

The Scotland international has encouraged others who struggle with their mental health to open up.

Griffiths and Rodgers pictured together in 2017.
Griffiths and Rodgers pictured together in 2017.
Image: Ian Rutherford

CELTIC STRIKER LEIGH Griffiths has encouraged those who suffer from depression to open up about their feelings if possible, citing his own experiences battling mental illness over the past year.

Griffiths stepped away from Celtic in December 2018 , with then manager Brendan Rodgers explaining the Scotland international was dealing with “ongoing issues” that had become “a struggle for him.”

The 28-year-old returned to the Celtic match-day squad on 9 July in a Champions League qualifier against Sarajevo, and then made his first appearance since returning in the second leg eight days later, coming on as a second-half substitute .

And Griffiths has now revealed the issues that plagued him last year was a battle with depression, and credits Rodgers with stepping in and helping him through the negativity that had built up over time.

It was a slow drip that was building up and building up, and Brendan Rodgers saw that and stepped in,” Griffiths told reporters. “I owe a thank you to him because if he never stepped in who knows where I’d be.

“But I am trying to look forward now and be positive and trying to get minutes on the park and look forward to the season ahead.”

Griffiths detailed his own efforts to combat his illness in the future, specifically making sure he remains open with others over his feelings.

That is something he believes can not only help him, but others who also suffer from depression with his hope that others can be aided before it is too late.

I’m just trying to be a bit more open, not keep stuff in, and just speak to people,” Griffiths explained. “Regardless of who it is – team-mates, coaches, PR people at the club, whoever it is.

“Just try to open up and if you’ve got something on your mind just say it, because ultimately you could be back in the same place and I don’t want to be there.

Leigh Griffiths File Photo Griffiths in action for Celtic earlier this year. Source: Ian Rutherford

“What is happening in society nowadays, a lot of people are taking their own lives, and maybe if they open up and speak a little bit, it can save lives.

“Anybody who is suffering, open up and speak to someone. There is a lot of people out there that will help.”

Griffiths further credited those around him for getting him on the road to recovery, adding: “It’s been very hard, very lonely at times. Without the help of the club, friends, family and support that I had, I wouldn’t be sitting here now.

“So it’s a massive thank you to them. It’s been a long, difficult road but thankfully there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Rodgers has since departed Celtic for Leicester City, but his replacement, Neil Lennon, is no stranger to mental health challenges.

And Griffiths admitted that experience makes him feels better that Lennon was chosen as Rodgers successor.

“When he got the job it was a big relief for me because he went through it himself,” Griffiths said.

“If I have to turn to someone for advice or ask questions or just to speak to someone then he’d be the man.

“He gave me a clean slate and said this is a new season, go and do what you can do, show everyone you can still be a top player and that’s what I aim to do.”

Griffiths also thanked the support he has received from across the country, and revealed even rival supporters sent their best wishes for his recovery.

“Not just Celtic fans but fans all over Scotland,” he said. “Rival fans that see me as that rogue on the pitch, but away from that I’m just a man who tries to look after my family. It’s nice to see that fans can put football rivalry aside.”

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