The stigma attached to mental health issues makes it an under-investigated area in football, and in sport in general. One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any year. Over 10% of the population have depression at any one time.
Scientific data relating to the mental health of athletes is rare, and most studies have severe methodological limitations.
The very few studies on mental health problems among football players indicate that mental health problems are at least as frequent as among the general population.
Depression and general anxiety disorder seem to be the most frequent mental disorders in football players.
Adapting to a new team, manager and club can be a challenge and causes anxiety for many players.
The intense environment and likelihood of a short playing career can easily lead to poor mental health.
The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) are increasingly concerned by the prospect of hidden mental health issues within the game. They have a decline of more than 25% in members accessing the organisation’s counseling services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Recently, Premier League clubs made it a mandatory for boards to have a member specifically responsible for mental health. Also, the first-team players should receive mandatory mental-health education.
“I didn’t want to play because my mind wasn’t there, I wasn’t focused at all. I was thinking about other things and obviously bottling it all up; trying to play football, you can’t do it.”Jesse Lingard, Manchester United.