New Zealand Rugby is stepping up to help address New Zealand’s high rates of mental illness and the stigma associated with getting help, with the launch of a website and social media campaign.
The website, www.headfirst.co.nz, offers players, parents, coaches, referees, volunteers and supporters a resource to get information about mental fitness, mental health and wellbeing.
The campaign features stories from 133 cap All Blacks legend Kevin Mealamu, All Blacks Assistant Coach Wayne Smith, Black Ferns Sevens star Ruby Tui, former Chiefs and Junior All Blacks prop James McGougan, the Sunwolves Liaki Moli and former international referee Chris Pollock, amongst others.
With a rugby population in NZ of over 170,000 players, coaches and referees, as well as hundreds of thousands of volunteers, parents and fans, rugby is engrained in our communities and by default contributes to mental health statistics.
As a result, rugby is in a unique position to be able to contribute to the conversation around mental health and wellbeing. There is a perception that rugby players are tough and asking for help is a sign of weakness. This campaign focuses specifically on breaking down that view and delivering the message that getting help is actually incredibly courageous.