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  • Ritchie Semple

Mental Health in Football

Is mental health an issue for the football industry?


In the UK, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any year. Over 10% of the UK's population have depression at any one time. There are millions of people involved in grassroots football, right now, with mental health problems.


Players, coaches and backroom staff should all be confident and comfortable about talking about mental health problems, in the same way that people discuss physical injuries.


“Mental health problems can affect anyone, footballers too.” Tony Adams, England & Arsenal.


What can football do to help?


Sport can help in people’s recovery, help to mange symptoms and can radically improve the quality of people’s lives. Whether it’s in mainstream, community football clubs, or in specialised sport and mental health projects, football can deliver massive benefits. There are three key ways that football can help:


  • Delivering social inclusion

  • Helping physical health

  • Improving people’s mental health


For some people, physical activity can be as powerful as medicine or therapy. In 2010 the Mental Health Foundation said that for people with depression, “Comparative studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as medication or psychotherapy”. Exercise releases natural chemicals like adrenaline and serotonin. It also helps to release muscle tension, raises the body temperature and causes tiredness. These all help relieve stress and provide relaxation – this is of particular benefit for people with mental health problems.


Delivering social inclusion


Making friends, holding down a job, keeping fit, staying healthy… These are all normal parts of everyday life. But the stigma that surrounds mental illness makes all of these things harder for people who have mental health problems. While attitudes to sexuality, ethnicity and other similar issues have improved, people with mental health problems are still often treated unfairly. Football can help to break this isolation and include people more in everyday life and their communities.


Helping physical health


People with mental health problems are statistically:


  • More likely to be obese

  • Have 2-4 times greater risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Have 2-4 times greater risk of diabetes

  • Life expectancy of someone with schizophrenia is typically ten years less – due to physical health problems 

Sport and physical activity can help in tackling this inequality.  


There are many projects delivering fantastic work in football and other sports, specifically to help people with mental health problems. The link below includes information to help new projects get off the ground, and help existing projects grow and improve to deliver more benefit to more people. http://www.thefa.com/football-rules-governance/policies/equality/mental-health


Excerpts taken from www.thefa.com

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