Football and Mental Health: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About
Poor mental health can affect everyone at any time because it never discriminates. It's very common. The rate tends to be higher in professional athletes as a result of several factors. Poor mental health covers a broad range of problems such as feelings of anxiety, depression, and distress.
As athletes, high pressure and expectations to perform are part and parcel of playing professional football. This intense environment can easily lead to poor mental health. It's no surprise footballers face a unique set of challenges that can be very hard for anyone outside the game to really understand.
The pressure of maintaining personal performance can be hard for players. Moreover, worrying about how they played can affect the players' mood for days. Sometimes this can even impact their next game, which can make them feel worse. Every club as we know has fan bases extending into the thousands. This creates heavy expectations for players. The consequences of underperforming in a game can be huge, and sometimes the fear of having a bad game can even cause one to happen. These additional pressure when: your club is losing and there’s pressure on you to turn that around or when your club is winning and you don’t want to let them down.
Stress and contracts also lead to mental health problems. Players can change their clubs/teams an unlimited number of times throughout their careers. This process of contract renewal can be extremely stressful. There's a strain on these players as a result of the instability that comes with annual negotiations from short contracts. Long periods of living under this stress can lead to depression which can cause physical conditions such as heart disease or lead to panic attacks.
Severe injuries can also cause mental health problems. Footballers who suffer four or more severe injuries during their career are two to 4 times more likely to report mental health problems.
It's very important to help these players. But in order to help them, we need to know that opening up and talking things through is necessary. Counseling and Sport Psychology are also very important. Sport Psychology helps in performance optimization while counseling focuses on optimizing their well-being.