International Men’s Day: The rugby stars who give back

Tuesday 19 November is International Men’s Day, an important fixture in the calendar for plenty of reasons.

It’s a day to “make a difference for men and boys” and tackles issues including the high male suicide rate, and mental health and social problems.

We’re taking a look at the sportsmen who have been, and still are, making a difference inside and outside sport through speaking up about mental health and other struggles, as well as those who are doing good work for charity.

1. JONNY WILKINSON

This year, Wilkinson has launched a new mental health campaign together with the health insurer Vitality.

Wilkinson also spoke to The Guardian about his own struggles with anxiety and depression during his playing career.

“It would be fair to say I suffered with it throughout my entire life, from a very, very young age, and I think the reason it’s of such interest to me is I spent my life trying to achieve things in order to try and it keep it at arms length,” Wilkinson said.

“Mental health affects everyone, and I hope by talking about my own experiences and exploring one of the most challenging times in my life, I can help people reach out and seek support when they need it,”

2.. DODDIE WEIR

Weir Doddie is one of the most recognisable and respected personalities in rugby. 

In June 2017, Doddie revealed he was suffering from Motor Neuron Disease (MND). Never one to think solely of himself and borne of frustration at the lack of effective treatment for MND sufferers, Doddie and his Trustees quickly set up the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.

The former Scotland and British Lions stars charitable foundation is on the way to raising £4 million to help fund research projects across the UK and investigate possible cures. A true inspiration.

3. GARETH THOMAS

Former Wales rugby union captain Gareth Thomas revealed he is HIV positive, and wants to “break the stigma” around the condition.

Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with the virus.

Since making the announcement, support for the 45-year-old ex-British and Irish Lions skipper has flooded in.

It included a message from the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, who said: “Gareth, you are an absolute legend! In sharing your story of being HIV+, you are saving lives and shattering stigma, by showing you can be strong and resilient while living with HIV.”

He filmed the documentary HIV and Me which aired in October, and was met with further praise from fans calling him a “hero”.

For further information, please visit:

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/depression/#.WHkpo1yYvah

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/depression/Pages/Introduction.aspx

https://www.rethink.org/diagnosis-treatment/conditions/depression

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