Rise in footballers showing depression symptoms during lockdown
In the past three weeks, FIFPRO has interviewed more than 1,600 players in countries that have implemented draconian lockdowns.
It found that 22% of women and 13% of men reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of depression, while 18% of women and 16% of male players had symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of generalized anxiety.
The only surprise for Dr. Tiffany Jones, mental performance consultant, is that the numbers are not higher. As athletes around the world turn their thumbs, she has been rushed to try to help them through a period of relentless uncertainty.
“The mental health aspect is becoming blatant,” she told CNN. “Athletes get a natural high while playing sports. It is the equivalent of taking heroin for the first time, so not having the physiological and psychological elements of sport creates mental health problems.”
Dr. Tiffany Jones needs to get creative, organize video calls with his clients, help with virtual workouts and even wrap them in puzzles – everything to try to mimic the rush.
“It is not the same thing, but I tell them that competition is a muscle. If it is not used, it will atrophy. I tell them that if they do not want to participate, it is a problem, “she said.
“After going through a 100 piece puzzle, they are like” Thank goodness I missed that! “”
The reasons for anxiety are mixed, but it is not surprising that women struggle more than men.
Female athletes have a shorter career and there is obviously a financial problem too. Take, for example, some of the players the doctor works with on the Barcelona team.
“The men said they would give back 50% of their salary and I thought it was good for them,” then I found out that the women should do the same, “she said.
“Well, 50% of $ 15,000 to $ 30,000 is not the same as 15 to 30 million!”
“I wanted to die”
Dr. Jones takes care not to get lost in the stereotypes, but anecdotally – in this regard – she found it to be true.
“I asked my athletes to keep a journal and they write down their fears and insecurities. When I read women, they worry about others and what it means globally. While my men are generally worried about direct family members, their careers and what it means to them, “she added.
While many football players are just beginning to accept the concept of self-isolation, those who have suffered from depression have known exactly how to punish it.
In winter 2017, Swedish Anton Olsson found himself alone. The top of the winning promotion in the third division quickly evaporated when the training stopped and some of his closest teammates left the city.
“It was just me and my thoughts,” he told CNN. “I wanted to die.”
Olsson’s problems came from the fact that his identity in life was almost entirely built around football. Without it and the structure it offered, it was lost.
“I have always considered myself a footballer, but your self-esteem outside of football may be low. When you are alone, you start to question yourself as a person,” he said.
“You just think you are really bad because you are not training. You think you are not so good at football, you are not so good at your job or you are not so good with your friends or you don’t have the biggest apartment or the best relationships, every bad thought becomes reality. ”
“I felt that I was not loved”
Olsson told CNN that he had identified the method he planned to kill himself and described a dark 24 hour period when his world crashed around him.
“I didn’t go out, I didn’t care about anything – about any relationship – I didn’t care about my dog. I didn’t care about what I ate. I didn’t see any sense in my I just felt that I was so bad at all.
“I felt that I was not loved, I have no friends, I am not good at football and I am not good at work. I pushed myself further and further, to the point where I “was sitting on the floor, with a blanket over me, and I just cried. I didn’t want to live.”
Olsson was able to find a way out of the dark and he is eternally grateful to his mom, father and brother for guiding him. Having found the courage to speak about it now publicly, he wants to help other football players who may be in desperate need of it. He believes that the problem is widespread.
“It is in all clubs at all levels,” he said. “Maybe two or three cases in each team.”
Yet the stigma remains.
“People are afraid to talk about it, lest the coach say” he is weak, he is not trustworthy, and we can’t have him in the midfield today because it’s okay to be a hard battle on the ground “”.
The key for Olsson and anyone like him is to start talking.
“When you feel really bad, you just want to have something smashing on your door, say hello and go out for coffee,” he said.
“You can’t break the door now because of the lock, but call them and talk. And if you see that you need something more, then seek professional help.”
It says that you should think of your mind as if it were another part of your body. “If I have a knee injury, I will go to the best doctor I can find. Do the same with your head, with your feelings, with your emotions, with your mental problems. ”
FIFPRO’s results are revealing and should be cause for concern, but there may be another group in the sport that is even more vulnerable to the consequences of the virus – coaches.
Dr. Jones says they are struggling “because they don’t know how to support their teams and their athletes and if they don’t have a solid coaching philosophy, they are exposed.”
There is also a technical aspect; until just a few months ago, coaching was done in the field, face to face. Not anymore.
“Some people don’t know how to go virtual. I discovered that it is the coaches and their staff who are most worried,” she added.
There may, however, be some sort of silver lining in the Covid-19 cloud. Olsson thinks that the demonstrable increase in depression is a good thing.
He told CNN that it would help soccer players to realize that they are not alone, there are others who are suffering like them and that perhaps the stigma will be lessened.
And if Dr. Jones wants to smile, all she has to do is watch her clients’ social media feeds.
“The number of athletes who have puppies during this period is remarkable. A puppy! What are you going to have for 10 to 15 years? They are like” I have to do something to give me life! “I mean, I guess everything they need to cope.”