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We need to talk about mental health

No 7&1/2
Stone Motif
Tattie Scones RRN
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Post by RDW Wed 04 May 2016, 9:03 am

First topic message reminder :

There have been a few interviews in the press recently from Rory Lamont - an outspoken man about many issues, but mainly mental health and concussion in rugby. The latest piece is quite hard hitting:
The Guardian wrote:
The end of the domestic season is looming but, in many ways, a more important debate is only just beginning in earnest. Does it really matter who wins trophies when an increasing number of players are struggling to cope with the intense mental strain of professional sport? Rugby union is not alone in having participants who suffer from depression but to what extent, if any, is the game itself to blame for the apparent rise in unhappiness?

The testimonies of the former Scotland international Rory Lamont and the England prop Joe Marler in the Sunday Times over the weekend were striking. Lamont, in a particularly brave statement, admitted to having suicidal thoughts since retiring through injury in 2013. “You’re thinking: ‘I don’t want to live like this. I’d rather die. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll get struck by lightning or step in front of a bus.’ Coming out of rugby, my world pretty much collapsed.”

Even now he still suffers sharp ankle pain, suspects the painkillers he took to assist his recovery from multiple operations may have affected his digestion system and has found it hard to cope outside the safety blanket of a club environment.

Most pertinent of all was his first-hand account of how players find it almost impossible to admit to vulnerability, whether it be mental or physical. “Rugby is great at masking insecurities,” Lamont told his interviewer, Mark Palmer. “You get this bullet-proof vest: you’re part of a team, everyone’s telling you you’re great. But it’s just a comfort blanket.

“Once that’s removed, you’re that little child, completely scared, totally vulnerable and very much on your own. I wasn’t always in love with rugby, but I was surrounded by friends, travelling the world. Suddenly everything was gone. I felt like a spent battery, tossed on the scrapheap.”

The case of Marler is not so extreme but, in its own way, is equally revealing. His agent approached the Sunday Times with the obvious aim of altering perceptions about his client after a difficult couple of months but Marler had a whole load of stuff to get off his chest. Among other things, the Harlequin front-rower revealed he has sought professional help in a bid to make himself calmer on the field. Marler is, hopefully, years away from retirement but, at 25, he felt he was losing control of himself, not least prior to his latest flashpoint against Grenoble. “In the first half I had lost it completely. You can see me running round as if looking for something … I know that things have gone too far.”

The first step to solving a problem, as everyone knows, is to admit you have one in the first place. Hats off to Marler for summoning up the courage to make that decision and best wishes to both him and Lamont as they strike out for happier shores. We are not talking here about the routine daily frustrations of sport: not getting picked, getting injured or contractual uncertainty. As Lamont makes clear there can be less obvious triggers, not least the knock-on effects of a “bravado culture” where the relationship between “us against the world” competitive aggression and normal life starts to curdle.

The former Bath and England prop Duncan Bell, the ex-Sale and Lions hooker Andy Titterrell, the former Oxford University and Sale flanker John Carter; all have had to wrestle with mental health issues either during or following their careers. Titterrell began to suffer after he moved from Sale and believes “a lot of my depression stemmed from rugby”. Carter has written about how he “felt bereft and empty, searching for something that had disappeared” after he was forced to hang up his boots. All are now doing their best to help and educate others and turn their own tough experiences into something more positive. The Rugby Players’ Association has a 24-hour hotline – 01373 858080 – for any members who think they may need help.

The next step, perhaps, is to reiterate to more people that the supermen out on the field continue to be human beings underneath. I happen to know the family of a professional footballer entering the final stages of his career. As Old Father Time creeps up on him, the abuse he receives on social media when his team loses can often be sickening. Never mind he has played more than 500 professional games, nor that he has been a loyal servant to numerous clubs. If you are heading to an end-of-season game this week, spare a thought for the more vulnerable gladiators wrestling with their unseen demons. Put yourself in their boots as they seek to justify another contract and keep food on the family table. Not such an easy life, is it?

To put these comments into perspective, Rory Lamont suffered a lot of injuries in his career - and a lot of concussions. After retirement he dropped a bombshell claiming that certain coaches accused him of faking his injuries, and that he was soft. This obviously led him to return from injuries sooner than he should have, no doubt exasperated the problem in the first place. This is of particular worry given his concussion history.

These claims were vigorously denied by the SRU so we don't really know what happened, but it certainly brings to the forefront the issue of physical and mental health in rugby - these are just human beings after all, with the same problems that everyone else has. The problem is that they are under the microscope and in such a cutthroat environment that issues such as mental health are put under a lot of strain.


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Post by Allty Wed 04 May 2016, 7:40 pm

So true Fanster.

The footy long term head/concussion type injury can also be attributed to a lifetime of heading a football


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Post by marty2086 Wed 04 May 2016, 9:14 pm

ScarletSpiderman wrote:
marty2086 wrote:
ScarletSpiderman wrote:RDW & Marty, rugby players with depression don't have depression due to rugby though.  Try have it because they are human.  Rugby players also get cancer, and other really horrible stuff.  Is it really our place to sit here and discuss it?  Send support messages and/or sympathies, depending on what the illness is, yes fine.  But it's a personal issue, and people should be allowed to go through personal issues themselves.

Not really an online bickering forum topic as its only ever going to end up in a pretty distasteful way.

From your comments it seems the discussion might be important as your comments show a lack of knowledge on the matter, as I have said earlier there are numerous studies showing concussion increases the risk of mental illnesses such as depression and legal cases are ongoing with the NFL and NHL, some have also been settled because of the damage concussion caused to players. Some are anticipating a similar case for rugby.

Your first sentence couldn't be further from the truth picard  This is why an online forum is really not the place to have these sorts of discussions.

Players must be going into games with concussions then Rolling Eyes


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Post by ScarletSpiderman Wed 04 May 2016, 9:26 pm

Marty, looks like we got our wire not just crossed, but completely knotted. So on that grounds I'm out.

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