Ted Lasso Tackles the Stigma of Mental Health
Ted Lasso, the popular TV that follows the story of an American football coach who moves to the United Kingdom to coach a struggling Premier League soccer team, is one of the most popular television shows in America. Starring Jason Sudeikis as the title character, the show touches on a number of heavy topics in a way palatable for audiences to digest. Among those topics are divorce, masculinity, parenting, vulnerability, leadership, loneliness, isolation, and systemic racism. Ted Lasso is a unique show because it uses its clever jokes and heartwarming moments of friendship among the characters to touch on these types of profound issues, but its most important message may be, above all, discussing the stigma surrounding mental health.
The show has become so entrenched in its attempt to tackle the topic of mental health, that recently the cast visited the White House and President Joe Biden on Monday, March 20, 2023 for a discussion surrounding mental health. Playing the characters, some of the actors appeared in the White House briefing room ahead of their meeting with the President and First Lady Jill Biden, taking questions from “reporter” Trent Crimm, another character on the show played by actor James Lance. Actor Sudeikis, playing coach Ted Lasso in character, said “No matter who you are, no matter where you live, no matter who you voted for,” everyone knows someone or has been that person who “has struggled, that’s felt isolated, that’s felt anxious, that has felt alone. And it’s actually one of the many things that- believe it or not- that we all have in common as human beings.”
It’s no secret that the issue of mental health has long been stigmatized in our society, both throughout America and worldwide. Many people who deal with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide suffer in silence due to the fear of judgment, the embarrassment of seeking help, and the overall lack of understanding that society has about mental health issues. In Ted Lasso, viewers see a character who represents both the archetypal “alpha male” sports coach (a “leader of men”) and someone who cannot hide from the pain of his failing marriage, feelings of loneliness, bouts with anxiety, and other ongoing personal struggles.
The character Ted Lasso struggles with depression and anxiety. In earlier seasons, having to leave his wife and child and travel to another country for his new job as a soccer coach and then later in the show dealing with a divorce, he suffers from isolation and disconnection. His issues with anxiety become tabloid fodder and the character is forced to face his mental health issues. He clearly struggles each season of the show (the series recently began airing its third season on Apple+), but in typical Ted Lasso fashion, he puts on a brave face and keeps pushing forward, finding opportunities for growth and ways to better himself. The show sheds light on the struggles of mental health and embraces the importance of seeking help when you need it.
One of the most notable, profound, and emotional parts of the series are the conversations that Coach Lasso has with with Dr. Sharon Fieldstone – a sports psychologist employed by the AFC Richmond soccer club. Viewers see the difficulty that Ted Lasso has in engaging with Dr. Fieldstone, as many people do when they know they need help for mental health issues, but ultimately viewers also get to watch the journey as Coach Lasso begins to open up to the team psychologist and begin the necessary work to overcome his issues.
As Ted begins to open up to Dr. Sharon, viewers are brought on a journey of self-discovery, seeing the very real depths of the character’s pain, self-doubt, and discomfort. These powerful and relatable moment for viewers may also offer identification and hope for those watching the show who may have experienced similar struggles in their own lives. Additionally, Dr. Sharon’s response to Ted is one that could serve as an important lesson to anyone impacting by a loved one’s mental health issues or trying to help a loved one struggling with mental health. Dr. Sharon epitomizes empathy, kindness, and understanding, while emphasizing that she is there for Ted during his journey and stressing the importance of him taking one step at a time.
Dr. Sharon is often the voice of reason, a nurturing figure that Ted Lasso needs in his life. Even as the head coach, the person in charge, Ted realizes that he can’t solve these problems on his own, and viewers see that everyone sometimes needs help and support from others. Dr. Sharon reminds him that not every issue can be solved in one session, but that each session is an opportunity for growth and understanding. Ted’s journey, both in the show and specifically in his therapy sessions, is poignant and exposes a series of other characters’ troubles throughout the show who are also dealing with normal life issues and mental health issues of their own.
As Ted starts to open up to Dr. Sharon, we see a transformation in his relationships with both his wife and his team. He becomes more self-aware, empathetic and honest about who he is, and ultimately finds personal and professional success. This is the lesson that Ted Lasso brings to mental health conversation: that through understanding, empathy, and a willingness to ask for help we can all find our way out of darkness and into success. As a show, Ted Lasso aids in breaking the stigma of mental health because it tells viewers that, at one time or another, everyone has dealt with issues of mental health. It is not shameful, it is not embarrassing, and it is something we all need help for at one point or another.
Ted’s willingness to be vulnerable and authentic in front of his teammates and colleagues – he even tears up in front of Dr. Sharon during one session – breaks down the harmful notion that real men should never show their emotions. It demonstrates that vulnerability is really strength, and that honesty and transparency of our struggles, especially around mental health, offers others an opportunity to offer help and support. Help and support from professionals, loved ones, and community is key for anyone suffering from mental health to work through the issues and come out the other side.
The show’s treatment of mental health is also especially important for young adult men, who are often vulnerable to social pressure to act or be “strong” and “masculine” in situations where the truth is wanting to seek out help or professional guidance. The ability to see personal and professional success become possible for a character like Ted Lasso, a person just like them, who is willing to open themselves up emotionally highlights the strength and self-awareness that can come from accepting one’s own imperfections and seeking growth. Growth, which is always uncomfortable, is a key attribute in positive transformation. Growth, emotionally and spiritually, and an openness to face troubles, difficulties, and discomfort, is key for anyone wanting to overcome issues they are having with mental health.
Overall, the show Ted Lasso dares to tackle a very difficult topic that many people want to ignore, but desperately needs more awareness and attention throughout society. It’s somewhat lighthearted and comedic approach to the issue and personal struggles of the characters is what makes the show not only entertaining and one of television’s biggest recent hits, but also a valuable cultural object worthy of existing in our modern-day landscape and an important topic of conversation each Thursday morning after the airing of the latest episode. The series’ commitment to expanding the role of empathy and compassion in our cultural zeitgeist around mental health can only be beneficial to society at large and every viewer of the show. As a show, Ted Lasso offers viewers easy access into the conversation surrounding mental health, aids in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health, and is one more opportunity for viewers to find education about the important messages we tell ourselves about our own mental health and the actions of kindness and empathy we need to show others in order to connect and empower one another.
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