June 10th to 16th is recognised as Men's Health Week, and when it comes to Ipswich Town, Kayden Jackson is certainly someone who knows about the importance of mental health awareness.

Of course, Jackson isn’t technically under contract at the club, having been released following promotion to the Premier League. He ended his time at Portman Road with 28 goals in 199 appearances, playing an important part as the Blues secured back-to-back top-two finishes to return to the top flight after 22 years away.

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Of course, a footballer’s career is rarely – if ever – made up of purely positive experiences. Jackson’s time at Ipswich had some notable low points which impacted him mentally, although he had the support to turn things around and finish his time in Suffolk on a real high.

Kayden Jackson's celebration is for his son Arlo.Kayden Jackson's celebration is for his son Arlo. (Image: Ross Halls)

“Without those moments, you don’t grow as a person, you don’t grow as a man and learn to grow with tough times and adversity,” he told Town TV.

“I’ve gone through a lot in my life and I’ve been lucky to have an excellent support network. Yeah, without them, things might’ve been different. I might’ve looked for an easy way out of the club.

“Having them by my side, having my partner, having all my family back home just a phone call away and supporting me when I really needed it, that was really crucial. It was something I’ll never forget and I’ll always be thankful to them for always sticking by me.

“It was special to be able to celebrate the last couple of seasons, to celebrate the promotions, to go home and show them my medal and stuff like that. It’s been incredible.

The 30-year-old struggled during the early days of his time at Portman RoadThe 30-year-old struggled during the early days of his time at Portman Road (Image: PA)

“Not everyone can get through tough times and, unfortunately, not everyone’s got the support network that I have, so I know how incredibly lucky I am to have that there.

“I’ve spoken plenty of times on struggling, struggling with your mental wellbeing. It’s something that I’ll always be open to speaking to anyone about because I’ve experienced that in my family, I’ve experienced people that haven’t been able to get through it.

“I’m in an incredibly fortunate position, to be in the position that I’ve been in for the last six years, to be an Ipswich Town footballer. How many thousands of people around this area dream of that and unfortunately won’t get anywhere near that?

“I’m lucky that I’m here today and that I’ve managed to work through the bad times. Thankfully, they’re a long, long distant memory. All I can remember is the good times and that’s something that I’ll always remember.”

It helps that Ipswich are a community club, and Jackson has made sure that he’s been involved in that.

At the start of the year, he attended a Talk Club session, which he described as an ‘incredible experience’, helping him to understand how people struggle outside the football bubble.

“I think the Talk Club that I did, that’d be up there with anything I’ve ever experienced at this club,” he explained.

“I think there were about eight guys there on the day, I’d never seen any of them, I’d never met any of them. To see them speak so honestly and to understand what people are going through, because sometimes a footballer’s life is so far from what the average person is going through.

Jackson registered three goals and three assists during the 2023/24 campaignJackson registered three goals and three assists during the 2023/24 campaign (Image: PA)

“To see what they’re going through and how they have the bravery and the courage to talk about it and be so open in front of strangers was incredible.

“On the day, when I turned up, I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know how much I’d get involved or talk, I thought I’d just be witnessing what’s going on, but as soon as I saw the honesty and the openness from those guys, I instantly wanted to get involved and share what I’ve gone through in my life – especially the difficult times.

“Life as a footballer isn’t always rosy. You don’t get promoted every year – just sometimes you get back-to-back promotions – but that doesn’t happen every two years, I’ll tell you that.

“It’s been incredible to be able to connect with so many people on a deeper level. Football, like I said before, is just a small part of life at the end of the day. We’re here today and gone tomorrow.

“To have an impact on people and for people to remember me as, ‘oh yeah, he as part of the team that got back-to-back promotions’ is one thing, but for people to remember me as, ‘oh, he was so open, he was so approachable, my kids always ran up to him and he’d always have time for them’, that’s something that my family would be even more proud of than what’s happened on the pitch.

“I like to think that I was raised well and I’m sure that they’ll be even more proud of me for being that kind of person.

“Being able to represent the town and my family as well, I try to do my best on that front too.”

For more information about the Talk Club at Ipswich Town, click here.