Southport Rugby Football Club employed 13 mental health first aiders in September last year, with the support of the Community Link Foundation and a partnership with mental health charity Give A Ruck.
The mental health first aiders have been trained to support the issues and mental health needs of Southport RFC members and the wider community.
Southport RFC mental health first aider Gareth Lang spoke to Merseysportlive about the scheme.
He said: “During lockdown we noticed a lot of people struggling with mental health, so we thought it was best as a club and a community that we try to support our members, players, spectators, and their families.
“Their role is to offer support, a listening ear, to signpost and direct anybody with mental health problems. We teach people where to get the best advice.”
Mr Lang highlighted the importance of the mental health first aiders in supporting members of the community.
He said: “We’re a rugby club with 600 members, and there’s a wider community that goes along with that. Things have been difficult, particularly with COVID.
“We want to be inclusive and try to help people as much as we can, whether that be with a physical injury or a mental issue.”
The stigma around mental health in rugby is starting to be broken down.
Mr Lang said: “Rugby’s a tough, physical, confrontational sport with a lot of aggression involved with it.
“There’s a lot of macho bravado that maybe wouldn’t be so keen to adopt the stigma of mental health, but I think that’s fading in society in general and that’s reflected in the rugby club.”
Mr Lang also gave an insight into how Southport RFC are planning to continue breaking the stigma of discussing mental health.
He said: “We’re planning on having a mental health workshop at the rugby club where we invite all the coaches, players, team representatives, and parents to speak openly about mental health.
“From that we’ll get feedback and discuss what the club as a whole and the community as a whole want us to do more to help people.
He continued: “Because we have so many mental health first aiders, we can all get together to quality check ourselves and make sure we’re all doing the right thing in our role as mental health first aiders.”
(Featured pic under creative commons by copyright: Fanny Schertzer)