Tackle your feelings, advise rugby stars

The Irish Rugby Union Players’ Association (IRUPA) in partnership with Zurich, has launched 'Tackle Your Feelings', a new mental wellbeing campaign that will see national and international rugby stars come forward to tell their own personal story of the issues they have faced off the pitch.

The first players to tell their personal stories are Ireland and Leinster front-row Jack McGrath who speaks emotively about how he coped with the death of his brother by suicide in 2010 and Irish women’s player, Hannah Tyrrell, who talks about how she overcame her struggles with self-harm and bulimia.

Their videos are hosted on the new website www.tackleyourfeelings.com.

Research conducted by IRUPA demonstrated that although 95% of Irish adults think it’s important for them to be proactive in taking care of their mental wellbeing, almost one in four (22%) are unaware or have low levels of awareness of the ways they deal with stress or life challenges. Additionally, 71% feel that they would be treated differently if they had a mental health issue and other people knew about it. There is still a large proportion of us who do not tackle our feelings on a regular basis. One in two (53%) Irish adults have gone through a challenging life event and didn’t discuss their feelings with anyone.

This is significant because one in four Irish adults will experience mental illness at some point in our lives. Tackle Your Feelings seeks to emphasise the importance of preventative measures in maintaining good mental wellbeing. By asking people to be honest with themselves about how they are feeling and to take appropriate action, the campaign aims to encourage people to resolve emotional challenges before they escalate into a crisis. The campaign website, www.tackleyourfeelings.com, will host a number of practical resources to help people develop their emotional self-awareness and proactively work on their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Jack speaks of the anger and anxiety he felt and how he kept his feelings bottled up at first.

He said: “It was like a gas valve releasing when I started to speak about how I felt. It can be the smallest thing that you say to somebody that can make you feel better. The longer you keep it bottled up, the worse it’s going to get. Nobody is going to slag you for feeling a certain way. It’s human nature. After what happened to my brother I think it’s really important to be open about mental health.”

Hannah is hoping that her story will give other people the strength to positively deal with their struggles.

'I got involved in the tackle your feelings campaign because I have struggled with my mental health in the past. I want people to realise that they are not alone feeling this way and that things can and will get better. I wanted to share my story in order to help make it easier for others who are struggling to reach out and ask for help and if even one person does so as a result of this then it will have all been worthwhile.'

Omar Hassanein, CEO, IRUPA said: “Our campaign is intended to be disruptive in challenging people to tackle their feelings on a daily basis. Professional rugby players are seen as strong, robust and are known for how they protect and manage their physical health but rugby, like everything in life, requires both physical and mental strength. We want to show people that vulnerability doesn’t need to be considered a weakness. Rugby players need to work on their mental wellbeing just like everybody else. We hope that Ireland’s rugby players, through the Tackle Your Feelings campaign, can play a role in encouraging people in Ireland to be more proactive and comfortable in looking after their mental wellbeing given it is such a key component in the health of an individual.

I’d ask everyone to visit www.tackleyourfeelings.com to watch Jack McGrath’s and Hannah Tyrrell’s video. They both have been so courageous in speaking publicly about their own struggles and I hope that others will take strength from them to tackle their own feelings as a result.”

Visit tackleyourfeelings.com to find out more.