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Ted Lasso and Mental Health

Ted Lasso returned for its third season earlier this month. I, like most people, devoured the first two seasons. It was a staple during the pandemic because it gave happiness and hope and joy when the world needed it.

It is entertaining, filled with joy and hilarious.

More than that, it celebrates and acknowledges mental health in a way that other shows have not. Ted himself may be the best depiction of mental health and how we treat it. He is incredibly optimistic, kind and joyful. This is sometimes frustrating, because I often wish he’d be more assertive when people are mean to him. But, as we spend more time with Ted, we learn more about his history. We learn that he has been through a lot that has made him who he is.

His lesson after his father’s suicide is to treat people better. But, in the scene everyone loves, he truly embodies the phrase “kill them with kindness.”

The panic attacks, though, are where the show really earned my appreciation. The show handled the attack beautifully; it is a terrifying experience. Even if you know about a panic attack on an intellectual level, it is terrifying. Here are just some of the DSM-5 criteria:

  • Abrupt surge of fear or intense discomfort peaking in minutes

  • Heart pounding

  • Sweating

  • Shaking

  • Shortness of breath or feelings of choking

  • Nausea

  • Chest pain

  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed

  • Chills or heat

  • Detached from reality

The last criteria is literally, directly from the DSM-5, “fear of losing control or ‘going crazy.’” Several of the above were described verbatim by Ted as the attack is happening or directly after it is over. We, the audience, are right there with him.

The sound is weird, he clutches his heart, his hands start to shake and his vision becomes tunneled. While watching the show does not give the exact experience of a panic attack, I think we can all agree that it was hard to watch. It made me feel uncomfortable, scared and worried. I was then struck with sadness for Ted because of how he reacted. He was terrified that he was dying or crazy – until Rebecca told him what was going on. And the way she told him was exactly what I wanted it to be.

She explained the event without judgement and without panicking herself. She calmly spoke to him, helped to calm him down and then offered to stay with him after what he had gone through. Some clients who have experienced panic attacks have been met with an unsupportive response. I have heard that clients have been told to “calm down,” “relax,” or, the worst one, that they are “fine.” These responses, hopefully unsurprisingly, are not helpful. The person experiencing the panic attack feels their experiences are minimized and not that big of a deal, despite feeling like they are dying (see criteria above as a reminder). This then leads the person to avoid discussing what they feel – and then we’re right back to the previous blog post.

Ted Lasso does an incredible job to normalize and encourage discussion of the needs others have. We didn’t even discuss the other stuff – Rebecca’s hope for revenge, Jamie’s difficulties with his father, Roy’s anger, Nate’s feelings of inadequacy – all of which is stuff that people come to therapy to discuss. The showrunners clearly intend to address mental health in a helpful, respectful way and I look forward to seeing how they address issues this season as well.

I (Gillian) am the owner of Tavernier Therapy Group. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Provider and a Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider. I work with teenagers who struggle to connect with their parents and am currently accepting clients! Take a look around my website and get to know me. I look forward to hearing from you!


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