"We have already learned not to die, now we will learn to live"

Antoni Bulbena, an eminence in psychiatry, is the president of the new club Médicos Pericos. From Espanyol, mental health, football and life he talks with AS.


Between visits, at the Institute of Neuropsychiatry and Addictions (INAD) of the Hospital del Mar, Antoni Bulbena attends his appointment with AS. What should have been a mere contact with the president of a new group of followers of Espanyol, the Peña Médicos Pericos, ends up flowing into a stimulating talk about the future of the team, football and the athlete, sports and life from the hand of a professor, director of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Who better than the author of a book entitled 'Anxiety' - a field of which he is an eminence - to converse in these uncertain times.

- How did the concern arise about grouping parrot doctors in a rock?

– We were several doctors, with Ramón Carreras (professor of Gynecology) and Antonio Arumí (psychiatrist), who decided to get going just now that the situation, with the team in Second Division, required it the most. We have been talking for a long time, we all know each other, and as parrots we have that point of clandestine smile.

- They are born now but there are already about 40 members in the rock. They have even implicated the club's doctor, Narciso Amigó…

– Yes, him and Juan Carlos (González), who was also at Espanyol. They have been very kind people, first class. We told them that we would not intervene too much, but they can guide us in how a club works from the inside. We are not going to claim anything in particular, but we are going to have very committed and expert people.

– Among its objectives is to organize, logically when the health situation allows it, a scientific conference, right?

– In addition to meeting and commenting on our hobby, if we like something and we are good at it is to catch up on knowledge, about sports medicine, psychology and sports psychiatry ... I myself have been collaborating with some sports teams. the Premier or with a footballer of First. We do not pretend is to be a counterpoint to Espanyol, only to be useful. There are many topics to be discussed, such as what happens to athletes when they retire, the treatment of injuries, energy or group phenomena.

– How can a vocation in the field of mental health be combined with a passion that generates as much suffering as Espanyol?

- I think the explanation is quite natural, because in fact psychiatry has often been medicine's poor relative. I myself have been practicing for many years, in which Social Security did not cover it. This minority, this stigma and even a certain contempt has suffered mental health. A great friend of mine, who is a top-level politician, told me that I am from Espanyol because that way I have been able to settle well in minorities such as mental health until I have managed to make it big. When I arrived at Hospital del Mar there were seven of us, and we ended up being 700. The ability to endure in a minority allows you to have a special consistency, strength and harmony, because the fight is not only a war, it is also growth. In that, being from Espanyol has helped me a lot. It is another select minority.

- In the extreme situation of Espanyol this season, in which it is not a question of going or not to Europe but of going up or not and changing the future of the club, would it be advisable for the players to try to live with the pressure or even lock?

– Clubs have their way of handling these phenomena, individually and in groups. There are coaches who take it on as part of their job; Guardiola, for example, came to ask the neuroscience team a long time ago. Last year it was very clear that the dressing room did not have the ability to move as a group, nor did it have leadership, things that from a technical point of view were very easily seen from the outside. We trust that the current coaching staff is taking care of it, there is no doubt that the group this season is doing much better, although there are times when it can be seen that it can fail. And, as a mental health connoisseur, of course I recommend any kind of help.

– In what way?

– In sports, the message is often reduced to being a matter of showing one's face. Yes, you have to show your face, but also your head. You have to know how, with whom, at what moment ... Let's stop being silly, when I hear that of showing one's face, I think that the face lacks the brain. I am not saying that this happens to Espanyol now, I am speaking in general.

- You wrote a book called 'Anxiety'. In view of an expected tachycardic end of the season, would you have any advice for players to manage, including fans?

- This is very interesting from a sporting point of view. The consummatory anxiety is what appears when the players go out on the field, and in that I think we have enough talent and team message to do well. But anticipatory anxiety, the one that happens before something happens, is very intense and complicated. And we have to try that it does not eat us because it can be very limiting. If you look at it, the footballer who has the worst time during a game is not the one who plays, but the one on the bench. At the club level, you have to treat waiting very well, which is where anxiety nests the most.

- You have mentioned the coaching staff before. Do you see a good therapist in Vicente Moreno?

– Yes, it seems, and the classification reaffirms it. We all want to be 50 points ahead, but the results are. For now, we can trust the coach and the consistency of the group, even the reaction has been good in the sparks that have been produced.

- Raúl de Tomás says that, if he has to be the leader, not only does he not feel pressure but he takes it on happily. What do you think?

- The leader is a very important figure, who does not have to be the one who plays the best, but is a benchmark on the field. Every player I've ever met knew who was boss. I don't know if Raúl de Tomás talks a lot or a little, but they do look at him, and that credit is very important. When a team loses references, things start to go wrong.

- Has, in any case, a very marked personality.

- Piqué or Ramos are captains, they shout in the field, and he is a reference, that is essential. Human beings work like this, with many people around but with someone who takes the flag forward to be able to unify efforts. The social aspect is basic. For example, when we could go to stadiums, it was used as a weapon to limit the rival team.

– Precisely, can the closed door generate a disaffection to football?

– Human beings need this type of entertainment, history shows. Consuming shows like football is our epic gymnastics, hence part of the pressure that existed during the hiatus for them to resume, obviously regardless of economic interests. I think the closed door affects us, naturally, but not to the point of disaffection. It is one thing for people to consider going to the country because it is more comfortable to stay at home, but the curiosity, interest and passion will continue. It may cost us more to return to the stadium, but the desire will remain.

- From desire to superstition. What does a professor in Psychiatry think of the manias of footballers? What if wearing an amulet, entering with the right foot, some specific prayers ...

– The human being performs rituals when there is a moment of tension. What these footballers are looking for is the opposite of the phobia, of being afraid of something. They look for esotericism, the amulet, that rabbit's foot that allows you to conjure up against what scares you. I was treating a footballer who put pictures of the Virgin inside his shin guard, another who used garlic ... And they were first class. They go to magical thinking to reduce a misfortune or a threat, because no study has shown that applying garlic to your left boot will score more goals. But what if I don't and then I lose? It is not far from any advertising campaign, from a Black Friday when they tell you that you have 22 minutes left to take advantage of an offer, from the 'they take it out of my hands'.

– Is it then advisable to ask the footballer to abandon his superstition?

– If it takes away the feeling of insecurity, it is something minor. For example, a study appeared that showed, when wearing a helmet was still optional for cyclists, that those who were wearing it took more risks. In the case we are talking about, if you help a person to mature well, in the end they will not need any kind of amulet.

– As a professor in Psychiatry, and from the point of view of society, do you still believe that we will come out better from this?

- I am convinced. We have had an opportunity for growth because we have had to rethink habits, to realize who we are with and who we are. If we have done well, it has allowed us to reflect on what we want. And, most importantly, to overcome losses: we have lost the freedom to go down the street, to pass through a store without queuing, to hug ... Human beings only learn when they lose. In football and in life, sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. Now we must lift our heads and know where we want to go. We have already learned not to die, now we have to learn to live.

– What a phrase.

- The brain of surviving is a different one from that of living. Hence the reason for a peña like ours: long accustomed to surviving as parrots, now we will come together to live peacefully uniting our sports and social lives, and perhaps providing a spark of knowledge, with all the modesty in the world but also with all the illusion.

Photos from as.com
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