Weakness in opening up’
People think rugby players are bulletproof, but with an injury, you start secondguessing yourself and thinking ‘am I going to come back from this’?’ BRYN HALL, RIGHT
Bryn Hall, Coxan would be a spokesman for the campaign, which launched with Head First signage on the playing field for the Ranfurly Shield clash between Canterbury and Taranaki on Friday night.
‘‘Everyone goes through hard times and rough patches, and if we can help others going through that. You don’t have to do too much at once, just take small steps and talk to people who care.’’
NZR education manager Dr Nathan Price said New Zealand had sobering statistics around mental health. One in five Kiwis experience mental illness each year, and youth suicide rate is also one of the highest in the OECD. Next week is Mental Health Awareness week.
Many rugby players fell into the ‘‘high-risk category’’ of mental health and suicide risk. The majority of players are young men, and 75 per cent of mental health issues started before the age of 25, he said.
‘‘It’s time to start contributing and get people talking as rugby is in every community across the country. It’s not something Kiwis are very keen to open up about, and there’s a reputation that rugby players need to be hard, uncompromising and tough.
‘‘There’s a real masculine culture to bottle things up and be tough as nails, it’s a Kiwi thing, but it’s really exaggerated in rugby. People need to see it’s actually OK to talk, and we wanted to add our voice to the mix.’’
Price said he was starting to see a generational shift as younger players encouraged the ‘‘staunch older guys’’ to speak out about mental health.
‘‘It’s really brave of them to step up and be vulnerable. It takes a significant amount of courage, and they deserve mana and respect for that.’’
Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall, 25, said injury was an inevitable, but devastating, part of the game that often pushed players into dark places.
‘‘People think rugby players are bulletproof, but with an injury, you start second-guessing yourself and thinking ‘am I going to come back from this’?’’
Hall, who missed the 2015 rugby season with a broken foot, spent 14 ‘‘frustrating’’ weeks on the sideline.
‘‘It’s hard because all you want to do it be out there but you can’t. Luckily, I had a really good support system, but it’s tough. If we can help in any way, that’s awesome.’’
Ryan Tongia is one of five players fronting the Head First campaign.