For Jesse Lingard and Alex Scott, yoga helps. Son Heung-Min prefers an early night, while Chris Kamara takes a long walk and Harry Maguire plays golf. These are some of the ways to maintain good mental health suggested by current and former footballers supporting a campaign – backed by the government and the royal family – to encourage sports fans to look after their own mental wellbeing.
In video messages to be broadcast in stadiums across the country before this weekend’s 32 FA Cup third round ties, Frank Lampard, the Chelsea manager, will admit his family “bottled up a lot of emotions, feelings and sometimes anxieties”, and his former teammate Joe Cole will describe how he practised yoga when he felt anxious, “centring yourself and getting back into that zone”.
Dele Alli, the Tottenham and England player, said: “There are so many people struggling with their mental health, so I want to help people understand that they don’t have to deal with it alone.”
There are an estimated 15 million football fans in England, and more than two-thirds of them are men, who are less likely than women to tackle early signs of mental health problems, and less likely to take regular measures, according to the campaign organisers. In a YouGov survey of more than 3,000 adults conducted last summer, of those who had experienced early signs of mental health problems in the previous year, 45% of the men said they had never done anything to manage their mental health, compared with 31% of the women.
The video initiative has been launched by Public Health England and Heads Up, a partnership between the Heads Together mental health charity and the Football Association which is being led by the Duke of Cambridge. Fans are encouraged to answer a short questionnaire and create a personalised action plan to look after their mental health. Clinically assured by the NHS, this will propose steps designed to tackle stress and improve mood and quality of sleep, in a bid to prevent common mental health concerns escalating. More than 1.3 million people were in contact with NHS mental health services at the end of September, the latest period for which official figures are available.
“We know men in particular often find it harder to admit they are not coping and can feel like there is nobody they can speak to,” said the mental health minister, Nadine Dorries. “I’m confident this partnership will help reach an audience who might otherwise not realise there are little steps they can take themselves to look after their own mental health.”
Slaven Bilić, the West Bromwich Albion manager, said that without good mental health he would be unable to “spread my energy and ideas to my players”, while Rosella Ayane, who plays for Tottenham’s women’s team, said: “I think switching off your phone, turning off Twitter, turning off Instagram, just really embracing time for yourself can make a big difference.”