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My name is Kira Philpott, and I’ve been playing rugby at Llandaff North RFC for 4 years. The girls at the club have been monumental in my rugby journey and have allowed me to feel part of a strong family unit and support me both on and off the field. At North, we are all genuinely good friends, so we all look out for one another and go the extra mile for each other.
It is no secret that the number of people suffering from poor mental health is rising. News stories of people dying from suicide are at an all-time high and show no sign of slowing down. I can’t help but feel a responsibility to do my part in ensuring that we, as a team, are aware of the conditions, symptoms and commonality of mental health problems. If I can somehow lessen the stigma of talking about your mental health and seeking help when needed in our team, I will feel like we are moving in the right direction.
Just like physical health, we all have mental health, so we must look after it as much as we can. At the rugby club, we have physiotherapists and First Aiders that will cater to all our complex needs to maintain our physical health and let me tell you, none of the girls is afraid to see the physio when they have a little niggle, bit of an ache or a bruise!
So, where do we go if we want to seek help with our mental health? Whether that’s having a chat about a crap day at work, needing a good rant or cry or even wanting information on mental health services available to us.
Well, that would be me!
From having first-hand experience of the positive effects a “go-to person” can have on a team from Heather Lewis, Cardiff Blues Ladies Chaplain, her work has inspired me to put my hand up as the Wellbeing Lead for Llandaff North. Now, I’m no professional; for some girls, I might not even be the person they want to speak to, which is fine. But if just one person needs a shoulder to cry on or signposting to further services, I’m your girl.
Although I’m not completely clueless, I am qualified in ‘Mental health first aid for young people’, which does give me some knowledge on how to help people at crisis points and who that person needs to be referred to. It’s not my job to diagnose people, ‘cure’ people or deal with mental health problems that are too complex for my rather limited knowledge and experience.
Small but powerful steps taken at North included marking World Mental Health Day (10 October 2020). After training, the girls returned to the clubhouse for some food, well-earned sweet treats, and cakes in favour of a small donation to the Mental Health Foundation. The girls really bought into this evening and even competed in teams to answer a Mental Health Quiz - they’re a competitive bunch! This gave the team a chance to have a chat, catch up and destress. With the topic of mental health being on the table, conversations soon started to flow, and people were able to get things off their chest if they chose to.
Moving forward, post-Christmas, the team will get together for a fundraising challenge to raise even more money for the Foundation, as it's close to all our hearts. Some of the girls are even having input in the Foundation's “How to look after your mental health and wellbeing as an elite athlete in rugby” publication.
I can’t stop people from experiencing poor mental health. Let’s face it: 1 in every 4 people will have to deal with a mental health problem at some point in their life. But what I can do is help lessen the stigma they face when they do go through it.
It’s not a grand gesture, and it’s not about doing it for the credit or to tick a box. I am doing it because I want the best for the girls in my team, and I know they all feel the same way about me too! So, check on your friends and let’s make talking about our mental health as easy as saying, “my hamstrings are tight today”.
If you feel like ending your life or are unable to keep yourself safe, please call 999 or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress. If you feel affected by the content you have read, please see our get help page for support.