“Football is life!” The Emmy-winning, comedy-drama TV series “Ted Lasso” is set to premiere its final season on Apple TV+ by the end of this year. If you’ve seen the last two seasons already, you are probably familiar with the infectious optimism and inspiration of American coach Ted Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis. Apart from his charm and goofy jokes, Ted is an encouraging leader, making him one of TV’s best fictional coaches.
However, Ted’s mental health journey these past two seasons has been a rocky one. Despite his rosy demeanor and knack for delivering motivating speeches, Ted faces struggles that find him in his quiet moments. He’s a perfect example that no matter how put-together somebody may appear on the outside, they may fall apart behind closed doors. So, what can viewers learn from Ted’s journey? Here are two key lessons that “Ted Lasso” teaches us about mental health.
Since Season 1, Ted has battled with his mental health due to professional and personal challenges. But it also takes him a long time to accept it. Ted has to deal with frenzied AFC Richmond fans and the media criticizing him (often to his face) about his lack of knowledge of European football. He’s also faced initial opposition from his players and is unknowingly sabotaged by his boss, Rebecca (played by Hannah Waddingham), to ensure that he fails in leading the team. But even though he’s breezed through these work challenges, one central area in his life is left a gaping hole: his marriage. In Episode 7, “Make Rebecca Great Again,” Ted signs the divorce papers from his wife, Michelle, played by Andrea Anders. After doing so, he suffers his first panic attack during a night out with his team.
In Season 2, things only become harder for Ted. Since the arrival of AFC Richmond’s sports psychologist, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (played by Sarah Niles), Ted has been hesitant to make an appointment with her. He even mentions a “modest Midwestern skepticism” toward therapy in general. When Dr. Sharon suggests that Ted is welcome to see her anytime, Ted often deflects her offer with a joke, assuring her that he doesn’t need it. However, his tough act doesn’t last long. In Episode 6, “The Signal,” Ted experiences another panic attack in the middle of a quarterfinal game and ends up at Dr. Sharon’s office. From there, he finally accepts that he needs help.
“Ted Lasso” uses its titular character to remind viewers that acceptance of your current mental state is important for receiving the help you need. Accepting that you are struggling with your mental health is never easy, but it’s a necessary first step to a long journey of healing and self-discovery. While judgment, pride and fear are common reasons people don’t reach out for help, it shouldn’t hold you back from doing so, as suppression only leads to worse outcomes. Just look at Ted. The more he tries to obscure his struggles and hide behind his gleeful mask, the stronger it is when they come back to bite him. Despite his many internal obstacles, Ted still takes the right step forward. But of course, taking the first step looks different for everyone. For some, it can mean opening up to a trusted loved one for the first time. For others, it’s taking that big leap into getting the help you need, as Ted did. It is also helpful to remember that everyone moves at their own pace regarding their mental health.
Vulnerability is scary. Talking about what’s been breaking you and willingly allowing another person to hear that is a daunting task. But it can also be rewarding. When Ted officially begins his sessions with Dr. Sharon in Episode 7, “Headspace,” he avoids it as much as he can by leaving the room multiple times mid-session. It isn’t until his third attempt that he finally starts to have a conversation with Dr. Sharon. In the following episode, “Man City,” Ted takes another big step for his mental health. He opens up to his fellow Diamond Dogs about his anxiety before a match. Surprisingly, his honesty leads his friends to share their own problems, creating a safe and supportive space. In the same episode, Ted breaks down another wall: He reveals to Dr. Sharon over the phone that his father died by suicide when he was a teenager. However, when she offers the space to talk more, Ted hangs up, immediately shying away from vulnerability once again.
Ted’s journey is far from smooth sailing. In Episode 10, “No Weddings and a Funeral,” as Ted gets ready for Rebecca’s father’s funeral, he has another surprise panic attack. Instead of braving it alone like he usually does, he calls Dr. Sharon for help. He leans into the vulnerability this time. Ted eventually opens up further about his father’s death and the deep grief that came along with that. Ted is scared when he faces his demons; years of bottling up his trauma and having it manifest in brutal panic attacks has left him broken. But alas, he has reached a breakthrough.
“Ted Lasso” shows viewers that being vulnerable about your past pain is meant to be complicated. It takes guts to be willing to do so. But the result is so worth it. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there because, like Ted, it is a process that unfolds when you’re ready. Sure, it sounds way more fun to “be a goldfish,” but accepting vulnerability can get you closer to freedom. In the words of Coach Lasso himself, “Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn’t it? If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.” It’s exciting to think about how much of Ted’s mental health journey will continue to unfold in Season 3 of “Ted Lasso.” But until then, let’s all decide to follow the “Lasso Way.”