Cambridge Regional College - Centre of Vocational Excellence

Former footballer talks to students on mental health, addiction and how to pick yourself back up when life throws tough lessons

A former professional footballer gave a powerful talk to students at Cambridge Regional College about how to pick yourself up and carry on when life dishes out tough lessons.

Liam Hughes is on a mission to empower people to better mental health by telling his own compelling, and at times, difficult story.

A former student at the college, Liam is touring the country with his newly formed organisation WAND – Wisdom And New Direction – raising awareness of mental health, anxiety and addiction.

The young dad is giving talks and workshops to students and businesses, using his own experiences, to help others. He gave as talk and ran a workshop for students at CRC at the Cambridge campus as part of well- being events at the college.

Liam, who lived in Chatteris and then March when he played for Cambridge United from 2008 to 2016, said: “I am a 6 ft 4 bloke, who is prepared to share my vulnerability and emotions and the story of what I’ve been through, to empower others who are struggling.

“My talks go through the highs and the lows, it is also light hearted, but underneath is a serious message of support. People think mental health is just depression but it is also anxiety, addiction, self-harm, insomnia and more.

“For many people, knowing another person cares enough to listen is a powerful thing. I hope my talks can start a journey of recovery for other people.”

Liam speaks of his own battle with drink and drug addiction and how, despite turmoil behind the scenes, he managed to bag Man of The Match awards and strike winning goals, which helped trick himself into thinking everything was OK.

He tells of turning up to training sessions drunk and speaks with candour of two suicide attempts.

“Trauma is a big gateway,” Liam said. “There needs to be more understanding of the brain’s chemical imbalance. However, addicts will always find a reason to carry on and say they are not that bad or compare themselves to others who are worse. At the end of the day, anyone suffering in any way needs to look at themselves and admit they need help.”

It is now a year since booking into rehab, thanks to the Sporting Chance charity, and young dad Liam is proud to be clean and helping others.

“It’s easy to think why me?” Liam said. “But it is better to think what can I learn from this and how can I use it for positive good?

“Everyone’s story matters. I hope through giving these talks and the online forum of WAND with easy contact details, people can share their experience and know that others care.”

“So many people are pushing a self-destruct button. I was. But with the right words from another person who has walked a similar journey, it could just be the turning point that makes a difference.”

Liam’s talk at Cambridge Regional College is in conjunction with Cambridge United FC to raise awareness.

David Matthew-Jones, Chairman of the Cambridge United FC supporters club, said: “Cambridge United is proud of what Liam achieved for the Club on the pitch but is even prouder of the leadership and courage he has shown talking about his own mental health challenges to help others. We strive to be a mentally healthy club and to show how football can help a wider conversation on an issue that matters to all of us. We hope that the students at CRC will value and learn from Liam’s honesty and candour.”

Liam’s ambassador organisation Wisdom and New Direction:

WAND on Instagram

WAND on Twitter


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