Player Priorities | World Mental Health Day

Michael Bennett

Everyone can develop problems with their mental health, and professional football players are not immune. During a career in professional football, players face considerable challenges and pressures, but are not always comfortable speaking up about needing help.

The latest PFA figures show that 464 current and former players have accessed a variety of mental health and wellbeing services via the PFA Charity between January and September this year.

While the number of players accessing counselling support has remained fairly steady compared to 2019, there has been a 5% increase in former players looking for assistance. Also, more family members have turned to the PFA Charity for help in supporting players. 

Low mood, anxiety, and problems with addiction continued to be the most common issues players came forward with. The figures also showed an increase in the number of players seeking emotional support too. While football matches were on hiatus for the majority of the year, players continued to worry about transitioning out of the game, and others reached out for help for more personal reasons such as Bereavement, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Eating Disorders, and Relationship Issues.

Earlier this year, the PFA invited all current and former players to participate in a survey to assess the impact the pandemic was having on their mental health. We received 262 responses, with 32 current or former players asking to speak to a counsellor or therapist.

Football, like the majority of industries, is currently under real pressure, particularly in the lower leagues. This has resulted in players competing for fewer places, with shorter contract terms and reduced salaries. Like many other people in the country, players are concerned about the future of their careers, mortgages and family commitments,  hand this uncertainty has featured prominently in the feedback we’ve received. 

The results showed 22% of current and former footballers felt depressed or had considered harming themselves during the lockdown, but among the 111 current players who took part, that figure dropped down to 6%. Almost 10% of respondents revealed they had been experiencing problems with damaging addictive habits, and 72% said they were regularly aware of feelings of nervousness or anxiety. Sadly 57 of the players who responded were considered high-risk because they talked about feeling suicidal or showed signs of depression.

All professional football players, past and present, can access support for their wellbeing and mental health via the PFA Charity. This includes immediate support through our 24/7 helpline, access to a national network of counsellors provided by Sporting Chance, and solutions for other complex needs such as residential rehab. Since 2012, our Wellbeing department has supported more than 2000 current and former players through mental health issues, and we continue to support more players through a variety of concerns every day. 

If your mental health is struggling, in light of football, Covid-19 or anything else, you are not alone. The wellbeing of current and former players will always be our number one priority at the PFA. You can call our 24/7 counselling helpline on 07500 000 777, 365 days a year, or get in touch with our team to discuss your options here.