Male professional footballers’ experiences of mental health difficulties and help-seeking

Susan Wood, Lesley K Harrison, Jo Kucharska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)
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Objectives: Male professional footballers (soccer) represent an at-risk population of developing mental health difficulties and not accessing professional support. One in four current footballers report mental health difficulties. Higher prevalence is reported after retirement. This qualitative study aimed to provide in-depth insight into male professional footballers’ lived experiences of mental health difficulties and help-seeking.Methods: Seven participants were interviewed. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.Results: One superordinate theme emerged; ‘Survival’. This related to survival in the professional football world, of mental health difficulties and after transition into the ‘real world’. Six subordinate themes are explored alongside literature pertaining to male mental health, identity, injury, transition, and emotional development. Shame, stigma, fear and level of mental health literacy (knowledge of mental health and support) were barriers to help-seeking.Conclusion: Support for professional footballers’ mental wellbeing requires improvement. Recommendations are made for future research, mental health education and support. Publisher Policies: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The Physician and Sportsmedicine on 1st February 2017, available online:
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-128
Number of pages9
JournalThe Physician and Sportsmedicine
Issue number2
Early online date18 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Professional football
  • soccer
  • athletes
  • mental health
  • help seeking
  • male mental health
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis


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