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Rugby players across the game speaking up about mental fitness and wellbeing

As athletes up and down the country ready themselves for competitive rugby this weekend, players from across the game have been speaking up about the importance of mental health and wellbeing.


Across the month and throughout Men's Health Week (15 – 21 June) rugby icons Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ruby Tui, Du’Plessis Kirifi, George Bridge, Anton Lienert-Brown and Rieko Ioane have been speaking up about mental health and the importance of breaking down stigmas attached to it.


New Zealand Rugby Education and Wellbeing Manager Dr Nathan Price, who manages the HeadFirst mental health and wellbeing programme, said: “It’s great to see how much progress has been made in this space and how more people from the rugby community, including at the top of the game, are openly talking about how they’re feeling.


“Breaking down the barriers associated with mental health and wellbeing is a vital step in helping New Zealanders deal with the stresses of everyday life. With the return of competitive community rugby across New Zealand, creating safe environments for people to talk about their wellbeing is prevalent now more than ever.


Last week, Former All Black and current Highlanders back Milner-Skudder, Black Ferns Seven star Tui and Hurricanes forward Kirifi were quoted in the New Zealand Herald talking about the importance of speaking about mental wellbeing.


Milner-Skudder said: "We talk about people speaking up and reminding them that it's 'Okay to not be Okay' and to reach out for support. On the other side of that is being able to receive it and hold that safe space.


"That's a massive work on for us as men in particular. There's the whole stigma of not wanting to talk and be vulnerable because we haven't been given enough examples or we don't know what that looks like.


"There are so many young boys that are coming in now with that awareness and understanding that the courage you show on the rugby field looks a bit different off the field. That's being brave enough to share how you're really feeling when things aren't going to plan.


"When I was their age there was not much awareness or education. I definitely wouldn't have been holding myself the way they are now."


Read the full article here: 


Ahead of Super Rugby Rugby Aotearea round two, All Blacks trio George Bridge, Anton Lienert-Brown and Rieko Ioane spoke to RNZ about tackling the stigmas attached to mental health and the techniques they use to look after their wellbeing.


Chiefs midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown is quoted saying: "Being able to comfortably express how you feel is really important. That's one thing we struggle with, especially as men in New Zealand. We don't like to talk, it's seen as a weakness if you do, but I see it as a strength."


Blues outside back Rieko Ioane said: "That stigma of having to be a tough guy and bottling your emotions up has become so apparent over the last few years and that has to change.


"Players, I would hope so, are now comfortable enough to talk about their problems and that's got to be a good thing. Mental health is extremely important in our game and our communities."


Read the full article here:


Last night former All Black, Keven Mealamu, along with the HeadFirst team, ran a mental wellbeing workshop at Papatoetoe Rugby Club for their members. The session, which had a big turnout, presented the rugby club with the tools and support needed to help with their wellbeing and that of others.


HeadFirst is a programme that was launched in 2017 to help players, coaches, support staff and families in the rugby community to support their wellbeing and that of others. For information about the work that they do, visit the website: