Letter: Spurs' shame

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I write to add a voice to your correspondent's concern for Stan Collymore, in the context of the appalling climate of intolerance and hostility in this country towards mental illness, including clinical depression (letter, 13 March).

As a football fan, as well as a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, I was shocked to be at Saturday's game between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa and to hear my fellow Spurs supporters jeering and taunting Collymore with chants of "You're mad and you know you are" and "You're gonna be locked up."

It is too easy to shrug this off as rumbustious or light-hearted. It is in fact the ugly, cruel behaviour of a mob. Spurs fans are rightly sensitive to any hint of anti-Semitic abuse from opposing supporters, but apparently unaware of behaving in an equally hateful manner.

Whatever the details of Collymore's situation, he is suffering from a serious psychological condition, and is clearly playing under considerable strain. He deserves our respect and compassion, not our mockery.

Underlying this mockery is, of course, fear in all of us of mental illness and emotional vulnerability, as well as envy of the talent which footballers possess and the money they earn. While this may help to understand such mob behaviour, it does not justify it.

NOEL HESS

Department of Psychotherapy

University College Hospital

London WC1

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