There is no doubt that emotions run high for many of us during the World Cup, as many of us would have experienced watching England’s opening game last night. Whether you are an avid football supporter or not, it is hard to avoid the pull of that green screen filled with little coloured figures fighting so skilfully to win. In fact, watching it can lead to various changes not only in your feelings, but in your hormones, too. For example, there can be changes in your testosterone levels throughout the game, as you watch each yellow card and goal, that echo those of the teams that are actually on the field1.
And the watching of the World Cup matches usually occurs in groups. If fact, over 90% of the time, trips to games occur in groups, with family members, work colleagues, or friends using it as a time to share the experience1. The good news is that relationships are a key aspect of maintaining positive mental health. Spending time with people that are important to us, and sharing experiences with them, can actually be good for us. The highs and lows of the shared experiences of victory and defeat can act to help us connect and bond with each other.
Yet given the strain of performing in such a global event, one in which emotions do run so high, possibly even to the point of feeling like they are carrying the expectations of a nation on their shoulders, it is unsurprising that studies suggest that there is an increase in the number of professional footballers seeking support for aspects of their mental and emotional health. Studies suggest that there has been an increase of over 200%2. And more and more players are opening up about their own struggles with their mental health.
Danny Rose recently revealed his diagnosis of depression3. He has spoken candidly about the various pressures that he has been under, including injuries and the lengthy impact that these can have. He has also stated that “being referred to a doctor and psychologist by the Spurs club doctor helped me massively to cope”3. Speaking about how he feels, what he has been going through, and how he has been supported, has helped open up and build upon the current conversations about mental health. It has even led to Prince William saying that what he has done is “really, really good” on a visit to the team3. And other players have opened up about their mental health, too, including Aaron Lennon and Clarke Carlisle4.
And so as these conversations continue – hopefully as the teams all continue to play in a way that they are proud of throughout the Cup – the ability of mental health issues to impact on anyone is clearly highlighted. And with these conversations, we can learn how to best support each other, as any good sports team knows is needed for success.