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Mad About Football: Alan Pringle's speech


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Dr. Alan Pringle's speech to the Mad About Football conference, October 2008. For video of the speech, please visit

Published in: Health & Medicine, Sports
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Mad About Football: Alan Pringle's speech

  1. 1. But does it cross the line ? Alan Pringle
  2. 2. Citizen Suite, City of Manchester Stadium 13 October 2008
  3. 3. In some ways general health problems can be relatively uncomplicated and easy to identify
  4. 4. The public has accessed terminology and language for general health care often through popular media like TV
  5. 5. In the world of mental health this is not always the case and although the public are familiar with the words they are often unsure about the actual meanings psychotic bi-polar OCD We cannot see what a person is thinking or feeling and as such often we rely on observing their behaviour or listening to them We then make a judgement on whether we think what they are presenting is normal or has crossed the line into abnormal
  6. 6. Mental health problems can often be characterised by such things as anxiety, stress, mood swings, despair, anger and paranoia . . so can holding a season ticket at Mansfield Town Although sometimes it’s not all bad ! ! !
  7. 7. What football can offer is a framework and a language that most people understand to help us think about how normal thinking can cross the line into mental health problems in response to the stresses and situations that everyday life brings If we can accept that mental health problems are extensions of normality then we can catch a glimpse of this in how we behave before, during and after matches. I want to look specifically at anxiety, depression, anger and paranoia
  8. 8. anxiety A level of anxiety is normal especially in response to challenging situations. Has your team ever been 2-0 up and looked like they were cruising then lost a goal ? How do you feel ? Imagine you felt like that when you were trying to talk to your boss about something mundane or felt that way physically when you were trying to get to sleep at night In anxiety disorder these thoughts and feelings cross the line and become more and more embedded in a persons life until the ability to function is lost
  9. 9. depression Remember when you lost that really important game and relegation was an inevitability ? Or you wouldn’t qualify for a major international tournament Of course its only a game, of course its an overreaction but it still feels very, very real at that point in time, look at the photographs on this slide When you go home and people who don’t follow football say “get a life, snap out of it” how do you feel ? Imagine feeling like this every minute of every day for months without end. In depression these sorts of thoughts and feelings dominate a person’s thoughts and beliefs. What would you do to make it stop ?
  10. 10. anger Remember when the ref gave that decision that was clearly WRONG and cost you the game Would you normally behave like that and say those things ? Anger is a natural human response and in football we actually experience some extremes of the phenomenon What do you think life would be like if you responded to everyday simple exchanges with the same highly charged response ? In some mental health problems people can cross the line and find controlling anger very difficult
  11. 11. paranoia You know what paranoia feels like, you’ve been on a bus when people at the back were laughing, you’ve walked into a room and people stopped talking as soon as you entered Some people think that there are certain refs that don’t like their club This feeling of paranoia fills a person with fear, you know what fear feels like. In a paranoid illness people cross the line and that fear is with them from the moment they wake up until they go (or don’t go) to sleep at night
  12. 12. Whilst not suggesting for one minute that supporting a team IS like having a mental health problem Understanding the normal emotional and cognitive processes that supporters feel and the impact they have on behaviour Helps us have a glimpse of what heightened states of emotion and emotionally charged behaviours are like before they cross the line into mental health problems This helps us start to understand how football can be a very important vehicle in delivering messages about mental health and in helping people understand mental health problems The language of football, the shared experience of people watching and playing football and the use of football facilities as a base for mental health interventions can all help in the process of making mental health problems better understood and to reduce the stigma experienced by people with mental health problems
  13. 13. And where better to start than football itself. In a profession where for every success in an academy there are hundreds of failures, where job security is non existent and where stress and anxiety are prominent features of everyday life mental health issues are often not well recognised or openly discussed. One in four people will have a mental health problem in their lifetime, young men are roughly four times more likely to kill themselves than other groups in society How well do you think football looks after its own ? The FA, the PFA and SHIFT are working together with some universities like Nottingham and Derby and many other organisations to mobilise the power of football to be a serious component in mental health promotion and treatment In mental heath settings we see art therapists, drama therapists and music therapists using their medium in a therapeutic way. Perhaps now is the time for sport in general, and football in particular, to develop in a similar way and be the platform from which some brilliant mental health work can be launched
  14. 14. Football crazy ? Football sane !
  15. 15. Perhaps in mental health terms football can be one component to help ensure it doesn’t cross the line . . . . . . . . unlike the ’66 goal which I’m sure did !