Burnout, depression, stress plaguing Barcelona, Chelsea soccer players - opinion

Exhaustion is about to bring down the 22 Barcelona and Chelsea football players still running on the field at Stamford Bridge.

 A PSYCHOLOGICAL care platform allows employees to deal with life crises, and provides online consultations with psychologists 24 hours a day.  (photo credit: COURTESY iFEEL)
A PSYCHOLOGICAL care platform allows employees to deal with life crises, and provides online consultations with psychologists 24 hours a day.
(photo credit: COURTESY iFEEL)

The moment of truth is near. Exhaustion is about to bring down the 22 Barcelona and Chelsea football players still running on the field at Stamford Bridge. Is the mighty Barcelona about to lose?

It’s already overtime, with little time left to score the goal that will take the club to the Champions League finals. The entire crowd is cheering and calling their idols to give all they have and win the game. And then, deep into overtime, when all seems lost, Andres Iniesta emerges and, with an amazing kick, scores the legendary goal that will take Barcelona to the 2009 finals.

What comes to mind when something like that happens; when thousands of fans are chanting your name and your team members are throwing you up in the air with joy? The obvious thought is that it is a peak moment in the life of a football superstar; a moment when he is at his best.

Therefore, many were shocked to discover that becoming a legend in Spain didn’t stop Iniesta from going through a major personal crisis. In 2018, he revealed that at his greatest moments as a footballer, he suffered from depression. The death of his good friend Dani Jarque in 2009 impacted him tremendously.

Iniesta had to confront feelings of grief, anxiety, and depression. He described how his mental health deteriorated, how he felt the emptiness spreading inside as he counted the minutes for the night to come, when he could take a pill and turn himself off. Luckily for Iniesta, Barcelona FC, his home team for so many years, came to his aid. With the help of his family, his team members and his managers, Iniesta managed to overcome that dark period and get back to himself.

 The Chelsea FC Stamford Bridge Stadium (credit: CHELSEA FC/COURTESY) The Chelsea FC Stamford Bridge Stadium (credit: CHELSEA FC/COURTESY)

The Iniesta tactic

In response to his crisis and the emotional support he received from his team throughout his career, Iniesta decided to collaborate with iFeel, a digital health company offering organizations a psychological care platform for employees. This focused on helping people to deal with crises by providing online consultations with psychologists, 24 hours a day. 

Iniesta’s goal is to raise awareness of the importance of mental health care in general, and specifically in the workplace, and to strengthen the message that employers are responsible for their employees’ emotional well-being, since they are their greatest assets, and that the best way to care for them is by focusing on their mental health.

“Iniesta’s tactic” focuses on teaching companies to handle success on the one hand, and on the other hand, to revolutionize the way mental health is addressed in the workplace. Managers need to let go of terms such as “sick” and “healthy” in the context of mental health, and they can’t assume that workers will leave their mental health issues outside when they enter the office.

In fact, many events in life can impact our mental state (relationship issues, difficulties with managers at work, problems with the kids, etc.), and there are periods when we need a little more attention and support. Our workplace can play a meaningful role in helping us deal with life’s difficulties. Nowadays, more and more employers encourage open discourse and allow workers facing difficulties, to rely on their workplace as a pillar of support by offering them opportunities to seek help before their difficulties escalate and become crises.

CARING FOR workers’ mental and psychological health and improving their well-being is also the key to preserving talent, improving output, and dealing with challenges in a positive way. Femi, Israel’s leading MedTech and digital health services company, recognized the need workers have for mental support, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, Femi is helping employers offer their workers mental health support services, using a digital platform combining interventions by certified therapists via text and video chat and personalized digital tools.

More and more companies around the world today are giving their workers access to advanced mental health services that combine technological and therapeutic innovation, emphasizing discretion and a complete separation between the service-provider and the employer. This new approach of enabling access to these services, allows workers to seek help as soon as difficulties emerge, rather than wait for the situation to deteriorate or adversely affect their performance – circumstances that typically motivate people to approach a therapist.

In the US, for example, many workers today expect to receive mental health support services as part of their employment terms. Such services are part of the agenda, not an additional benefit.

We at Femi are proud to be the first to introduce such a platform to the Israeli market, and believe in raising awareness about the importance of mental health in the workplace, in line with the US, Australia and the UK. This awareness is gaining even greater importance, especially when dealing with the growing problem of work burnout, largely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people find it harder to balance the demands of life at home and work.

Burnout leads to decreased motivation, depression, cynicism and feelings of alienation towards the workplace, and, as a result, to reduced output. An appropriate, accessible and discrete approach can help workers deal with burnout and limit the implications it has on them and their employers.

Femi’s digital platform relies on AI to provide workers with personalized information related to their difficulties, tools for self-adjustment and relaxation, and personal health exercises. In addition, the technology allows workers to measure and record their mood and well-being, and if they need to talk to a therapist, the employee can enter a chat with one or set up a video call.

It is a radical change in the perception of mental health, and one which removes the stigma and brings it out of the shadows. Instead, it is viewed as a crucial factor in the life of employees. This change can significantly contribute to their lives, increase feelings of connection to their workplace and also give true value to employers.

The writer is a clinical psychologist and head of the Mental Health Department at Femi.