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Mental Health – it’s good to talk: It’s Not a Red Card Offence

Mental health is something that we can all suffer from at some time or another.  Some of us suffer more than others, but it’s a hidden phenomenon that is pushed into the shadows and masked underneath fake smiles; hushed by millions of ‘yeah, I’m great thanks’s, even though inside the truth is the complete opposite.  We all strive to portray ourselves as strong, resilient and happy people who endeavour to be the best people we can be at all times.  However, it’s unhealthy for us to expect that for ourselves 100% of the time.  The good news is; the only person that expects that of you is you; everyone else understands that sometimes it’s best to be kind to yourself and give yourself a break.

Let’s look at the facts.  According to one of the UK’s leading mental health charities: mind.org.uk 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem this year.  That’s a quarter of us.  If we think of it with regards to a hockey team, and we have a full team and one substitute (which is a common occurrence for many of us, I’m sure) – then at least 3 of the team are experiencing mental health problems during that season.  78% of us still feel we can’t talk to a superior or manager about it; it’s time to change the taboo of mental health – and the time is now.

I recently read a very open and honest article about the relationship between Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh, where they spoke about why they are involved in the It’s Not a Red Card Offence initiative that is focused on raising a positive outlook on mental health in the workplace.  It moved me so much to see how Kate was a metaphorical backbone to Helen while she had to undergo grueling surgery on her back and rehabilitation regimes in order to become fully fit and game-ready again.  When Helen was told that her playing career was on the line, she brutally fought back to full health with grit and determination that can only be found in the very depths of your spirit and she is a true role model of perseverance.  What we don’t see is the hours and hours of turmoil that both Helen and Kate experienced and fought through together to come to where they are today. When social media is bursting with positivity and heroic achievements that happen on a daily basis, we forget about the foundation work of having to figuratively, and in this case physically, push through in order to get that mental momentum to gain that breakthrough.

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Why did it impact me?  Because it was a message of bravery from both sides.  Helen was brave by expressing her personal battle with depression, whereas Kate was brave in explaining how supporting a loved one who was suffering affected her.  They both are immensely courageous, and personify the very essence of grace and they are now able to help others through their work with Legal and General’s Its Not a Red Card Offence campaign.  One of my favourite sayings is Earnest Hemmingway’s:

‘ Grace is courage under pressure’

and this is a perfect example of just that.

Mental health issues come in many forms, and varies on a scale, so it’s important we don’t feel we have to justify our personal experience with a label.  A few months ago I was undergoing some mental health stresses myself.  I thought I was OK and I was telling myself that I was being ridiculous when everyone around me saw a physical change in me.  I couldn’t understand what was going on until after I went through, had my break through and was on the other side and reflecting back I then understood that my fellow teachers at work were merely showing me they loved me; not making me feel guilty about not being OK.  You can’t really hide away from children either, especially as a teacher; they pick up on everything, and I’m so thankful for that.  It was my place to accept and deal, and I’m so glad I did.

I’m a huge advocator in ‘never regretting’ – everything is either great, or will turn out to be a great story in the end.  This is one of those.  Sometimes our pain can be someone else’s gain (through you being able to support someone else because you now have experience and empathy).  When I read this it blew me away and gave me so much more understanding of how to be accepting of when things weren’t going my way.  I’m someone with sky-scraper expectations, and when they weren’t met I was feeling deflated and let down. Not anymore.

According to Legal and General, the main factor in absence in the workplace for longer than 4 weeks is mental health issues.  Absence less than 4 weeks in the work place’s second most common factor is mental health too.  It’s imperative that support, understanding and acceptance in addressing this, hence why: It’s Not a Red Card Offence has been created.  Legal and General have gathered a whole host of helpful tools for every kind of workplace to implement in order to add further support for their colleagues.  You know what’s the best thing, there are so many people out there who want to help.  Away from hockey, Nigel Owens, a world class rugby referee is also a vital crusader for It’s Not a Red Card Offence initiative. His story is nothing but inspiring, and will undoubtedly help if you take a look at his video.

Sport can drastically help improve mental health, as it offers a whole host of mental and physical benefits that work together.  Actively partaking in sport has been clinically proven to improve your mood, boost your self-confidence, improve your sleep habits and concentration.  This really is the tip of the iceberg, and different sport have different benefits for different people.  And this is great.

Personally, being part of a hockey team has always given me that extra community of people who are striving for the same thing, and have been a positive influence since I first started playing at 11.  Due to playing hockey I always had a group of people I could rely on, those who were likeminded and enjoyed similar things, and were a great source of company when working out, fighting hard on the pitch or socialising after games or training.  When I moved to Cardiff the first thing I did was find a local hockey team, and they added such a network of positivity and opportunity when I was new to the area, which I could tap into and make my own.  I will always be thankful to the sports I’ve been a part of, and already looking forward to the ones I’ve not yet come across, because I know I can guarantee a supportive network of genuine help, guidance and inspiring natured people to enjoy spending time with.

The most important thing to remember is that we need to talk.  We need to remember that It’s Not a Red Card Offence to suffer with mental health issues and there are so many people ready, and more importantly, eager to help.  You are definitely not alone, whatever you may think.  We’re here for you and we want to help, whichever way that may be.

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