Weak­ness in open­ing up’

Sunday News - - NEWS -

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.

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