Last week, the cast of Universal/WBD/Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso visited the White House to talk about mental health awareness. That’s been a key focus for the show over its first two seasons and its third season so far, and the show has received an incredible amount of critical acclaim and popular attention, so that made some sense for both sides. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden released a seven-minute video of the Ted Lasso White House visit on his Twitter account:
Millions struggle with mental health, but often they struggle in silence. An injured spirit isn’t any different than an injured arm – it takes time to heal.
Ted Lasso impressed us by promoting hope and self-care. So, we invited them to talk about addressing this issue head on: pic.twitter.com/s09PXtMvXK
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 29, 2023
Maybe the most notable part there comes in the cast’s Oval Office conversation with President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, which starts around 2:10. President Biden says “Well, as my mother would say, you guys are doing God’s work. Mental health, it’s no different than breaking your arm or your leg. This is normal. Everybody goes through periods like this.”
Dr. Biden then says “What are you hearing from people who see your show who are dealing with mental illness?” Titular show star Jason Sudeikis says “Well, they approach us with such genuine kindness,” Dr. Biden says “They pour their hearts out,” and Sudeikis says “One hundred percent. I couldn’t understand not trying to hear that, because I know it takes a lot.”
Toheeb Jimoh, who plays Sam Obisanya, then talks about the importance of representation, saying “You know, somebody sees something on TV that happens to them, and they go ‘Oh, that’s, you know, I see that in me, I feel seen, I feel, you know, understood.'” A little later, Dr. Biden says “So many of the younger generation, I mean, many of them have mental health issues, and they openly talk about it, and they go to therapy,” and Jimoh responds “Yeah, especially for young men nowadays, like, you know, masculinity feels like it’s being redefined. It’s certainly something that I was a lot more aware of. And if you start to tackle those issues earlier and earlier, then you won’t get to that extreme in the first place.”
There’s certainly some merit to that, and to normalizing television portrayals of mental health and of therapy. Both of those areas are still misunderstood by many. And Ted Lasso does also stand out for some of its portrayals of specific mental health issues, perhaps especially panic attacks.
Sudeikis says “I received so many messages from people because of the panic attacks that Ted has had, the way we play them and portray them on the show, down to our sound department picking this type of sound. People have been like ‘I didn’t know what I was dealing with, then I saw that, and you guys gave it a vocabulary, and it’s just kind of ‘Oh.’ And I’m like ‘No, I’ve been there, done that.'” And President Biden says “It’s amazing when you let people know that you went through, or you understand, or you had that happen. It doesn’t make it easier to do it, because you relive it like it happened that day.” Sudeikis then says “Part of the reason we’re probably asked by the universe to go through hard things is so that we can tell the tale about it.”
The whole video here is worth a watch, and it’s an interesting look at why this visit happened and what it was trying to accomplish. And Ted Lasso in general, and this visit in particular, certainly have raised the amount of discourse around specific mental health issues. And that’s important across many spheres, including in the sports media space, where we’ve seen a lot of notable discourse around prominent athletes and personalities admitting to mental health challenges and sometimes taking time off to deal with them.
There’s obviously much more that could be done on the mental health front. That includes increased funding for mental health treatment, and/or increased pressure on corporations to properly fund it for their employees. But there is some merit to the White House presenting this kind of platform for mental health discussion. And there’s some merit to the cast of Ted Lasso taking them up on it, and that led to some interesting and notable discussion that may help others.
One notable federal resource on mental health is the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, successor to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, launched in 2005 by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Vibrant Emotional Health. It can be reached by dialing 988.
[POTUS on Twitter]