Millie Bright: Chelsea and England defender says mental health awareness has improved in football

Millie Bright: "Everyone should feel as though they have got someone to go to, no one should feel alone in this world and have to suffer, because there's always a way forward. You don't have to keep quiet and you don't need to say you are alright if you are not"

PA - Chelsea defender Millie Bright
Image: Millie Bright is learning to maintain good mental health while managing the pressures of professional football

Chelsea and England defender Millie Bright believes understanding of mental health in football has improved and says she feels confident in speaking out if she needs support.

Bright will play for Chelsea in Sunday's Women's Champions League final against Barcelona as Emma Hayes' side continue their bid to try and secure a quadruple.

But it is the battles professional footballers have to fight off the pitch that have also been of concern to Bright, who admits to feeling pressure to perform at the highest level while striving to maintain a positive mindset.

"It's [perceptions of mental health] definitely changed over the years and it's something people are more aware of," Bright told Sky Sports News.

"By people speaking out and telling their story, it's made people realise how important mental health is.

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"I definitely feel supported in my environment and having the confidence to speak out is a big challenge that we all face.

"Once you overcome that, you then gain the respect of everyone. You don't have to keep quiet and you don't need to say you are alright if you are not.

"Football has toughened me up but I am not afraid to say if I am having a bad day and I have people around who will pick me up on bad days.

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"Everyone should feel as though they have got someone to go to, no one should feel alone in this world and have to suffer, because there's always a way forward.

"There's so much scrutiny in the game and football is a game of opinions.

"They are things we have to deal with every single day, plus the pressure you put on yourself playing on the biggest stage in football.

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"Something I've learnt is that we are all humans and that even though we are professional footballers and have a huge amount of pressure to be successful, we still have a right to feel all the emotions everybody else feels.

"It's OK to feel them and it's just how you overcome them.

"That's probably been my biggest challenge and my biggest success in learning that at Chelsea."

Bright and her Chelsea team-mates will also face a major challenge in Gothenburg on Sunday when they go up against a formidable Barcelona side in the Women's Champions League final.

Barca have won all of their 26 matches to date in Primera Liga, scoring 128 goals and conceding just five times in the process.

Despite that formidable record, Bright feels Chelsea can feel confident in their own abilities, with Hayes having assembled an impressive side in an arguably tougher division than their Spanish opponents compete in.

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"They are an unbelievable team and those stats are incredible," added Bright.

"But we are going to go out there and play our game, we have threats, a brilliant defensive performance this season and ultimately we want to be the hardest team to beat.

"We have our game plan, the girls are ready, we are confident and as much as Barcelona are a brilliant team, there is a reason why we are in the final and we take that confidence into the final."

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