As part of its commitment to player welfare, The Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) has officially launched #LiftTheWeight, a new campaign that aims to help remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues and offer the necessary tools and support to enable our members to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling life, both on the field and off it.
One in four people in the UK will be affected by mental illness in any year, with the most common issues being depression and anxiety. Often the pressures and strains that can act as a catalyst to mental health issues are magnified for professional sports people. Despite a number of high-profile elite athletes speaking out about their own struggles with mental health, the stigma around these issues remains.
Following a previous RPA campaign involving Duncan Bell, there was more than a 130% increase in the number of players contacting our confidential counselling service. In 2016, more players contacted the service than ever before.
As part of the campaign, James Haskell (Wasps & England), Nolli Waterman (England Women), Kane Palma-Newport (Bath), Netani Talei (Harlequins), Jono Kitto (Leicester Tigers), Ollie Phillips (former England 7s), Matt Hankin (Saracens) and former England internationals Jonny Wilkinson and Duncan Bell have shared their own personal experiences of mental health in a series of candid interviews.
These will be available to view at the new #LiftTheWeight hub, alongside other resources, links and advice relating to a range of mental health issues. The hub will be accessible to both professional players and the general public.
The campaign is also comprised of an in-club resilience training programme and the RPA’s 24/7 confidential counselling service, provided by Cognacity.
For more information, visit: www.theRPA.co.uk/lifttheweight
RPA Group CEO, Damian Hopley said: “Mental health issues can affect anybody at any time and, as I know from my own early retirement from playing, rugby players are no exception. We’re extremely grateful to our ambassadors for their openness and honesty in speaking out about their experiences of a subject that still carries stigma throughout society. We believe this campaign will provide essential support to any of our members who need it, but will also inspire the wider public to be open about mental health and seek help if they are struggling in any way.”
For interview requests please contact Tom McDowell on tmcdowell@theRPA.co.uk