‘Ted Lasso,’ Mental Health Share Center Stage at White House

March 20, 2023 by Dan McCue
‘Ted Lasso,’ Mental Health Share Center Stage at White House
The Oval Office is already decked out for visit by the cast of "Ted Lasso" to discuss the issue of mental health. (White House photo)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden are teaming up with Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” on Monday to highlight “the importance of addressing your mental health to promote overall well-being.”

The first couple hosted actor Jason Sudeikis and other members of the cast of the popular comedy-drama at the White House on Monday for a conversation on mental health.

And in a sign of the president’s excitement about the meeting, the White House on Sunday tweeted a photo of a yellow sign bearing the word “BELIEVE” above a door leading to the Oval Office. 

The sign is similar to the one affixed above Lasso’s office door in the AFC Richmond locker room on the show.

Other cast members joining the discussion include Hannah Waddingham, Jeremy Swift, James Lance, Toheeb Jimoh, Phil Dunster, Brendan Hunt, Billy Harris, Brett Goldstein, Cristo Fernandez and Kola Bokinni.

The Emmy Award-winning show, which is now streaming its third season, has repeatedly tackled mental health issues in its storyline, chiefly through its title character played by Sudeikis.

In 2021, Sudeikis told Us Weekly: “In regard to the mental health stuff, it was just there. It’s been there forever, but it’s really come up a lot in just knowing where the characters were headed and how important it is to work on yourself to help your team.

“And I think that we were trying to explore that and personify it in a way and kind of like a Trojan horse that there’s bigger issues in this fun, silly little comedy show.

“People have really responded to that,” he added. “And myself and other people in the cast and the writing staff get messages daily from people thanking them for really opening their eyes to what it means to go to therapy and what it means for someone in their own life to go to therapy and just speaking about these things and taking the stigma off of any form of health whether it be nutrition or mental, emotional health.”

Last year, during his State of the Union address, Biden urged the nation to “take on mental health — especially among our children, whose lives and education have been turned upside down.”

Addressing the mental health crisis is a core pillar of the president’s Unity Agenda, the White House said in announcing Monday’s visit.

“His strategy is focused on training more providers, making care more affordable and accessible, and creating healthier and safer communities, including online,” the announcement sent out Sunday night said.

“The Biden-Harris administration has provided unprecedented resources to help address mental health needs across our nation, including expanding resources for young people that have been exposed to violence and providing nearly $500 million to help states transition to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline,” it continued. 

“Confidential counseling is available for anyone experiencing a mental health or suicide crisis by calling or texting 988 to reach the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.”

During an appearance at the podium in the White House briefing room, Sudeikis spoke of the universiality of mental health concerns, noting that everyone, “no matter who you are, no matter where you live …” has known someone who has “struggled, whi has felt isolated, whoe has felt anxious, what has felt alone.

“It’s actually one of the many things that, believe it or not, that we all have in common as human beings,” the actor said.

“So, please, you know, we encourage everyone and it’s a big theme of the show is like to check in with you know, your neighbor, your co-worker, your friends, your family and ask how they’re doing and listen sincerely,” Sudeikis continued.

“And while it’s easier said than done, we also have to know that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help ourselves,” he said.

“Tthat does take a lot, especially when it’s something that has such a negative stigma to it, such as mental health, and it doesn’t need to be that way,” he added.

A 2022 survey by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 9 in ten adults believe a mental health crisis exists in the United States.

Earlier data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supported that finding and showed that mental health treatment became more common over the course of the pandemic: Nearly 22% of adults got mental health treatment in 2021, up from about 19% in 2019.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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