At 18 years old Vincent Pericard was told he would be the next top player in professional football, but retirement at 29, and after a battle with mental health issues, he was forced to reassess his future.
Playing for Juventus, Stoke City and Portsmouth football clubs, to name but a few, Vincent should have been at the peak of his career. The reality he faced however was retirement.
Plagued by injuries, his dreamworld soon became a nightmare when a snapped cruciate ligament, and four consecutive quadricep tears, kept him on the bench and pushed him into a dark place. Afflicted with depression and hitting rock bottom, Vincent used his retirement from football to break free from the downward spiral that his mental health was taking him in.
With no formal education to fall back on once he announced his retirement, Vincent found himself at a crossroad questioning how to move forward. Reflecting on his career and why it went wrong, Portsmouth Business School alumnus Vincent said: ‘My biggest realisation was the lack of support I’d received for my mental health issues. It didn’t feel right and it didn’t sit well with me.’
Dragging himself away from football, Vincent dedicated himself to supporting those in a similar situation as him by starting an organisation to help professional people deal with depression and mental health problems.
An ambitious Vincent soon realised he needed an education in order for his business to thrive, succeed and reach as many people suffering with mental health problems as possible.
In July 2017, Vincent graduated from the University of Portsmouth with BA (Hons) Business Enterprise Development. Whilst completing his degree, Vincent started utilising all the skills he was learning to streamline his idea and put together a business plan leading him to develop and launch an app called WhatsUp?.
Using the support of lecturers, Vincent developed the app for students, adding: ‘I realised students were also suffering from the same mental health issues as sports people. Now students can raise concerns with the wellbeing department within their University, in confidence and anonymity.’
During the development of WhatsUp?, Vincent worked alongside Innovation Space, the University’s enterprise department, to launch the app, and by becoming his first client, he was able to roll the app out to over 700 University of Portsmouth students. Vincent has also launched the app at Cardiff University and is currently finalising a licensing agreement to authorise WhatsUp? to be used in the insurance and financial sectors.
He added: “Now I leave the University with a proper education, clients and links with partners such as Mind and the NHS, who could help me reach even more people with mental health concerns. The University of Portsmouth has made this possible.’
Vincent was shortlisted earlier this year for a Times Higher Education Leadership and Management award in Outstanding Innovation of the Year category. He is continuing with his education by studying a MSc Accounting and Finance qualification.
To find out more you can download the free app by searching ‘WhatsUP’.