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Mental Health Awareness Week

This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week, a cause which we are really passionate about. Having seen responses to the campaign from others this week, we have reflected on how rugby positively affects our mental health, and some of our members have shared their experiences. Talking about mental health publicly is an important step to making sure mental health is recognised as being equally important as physical health, and making sure people see it’s ok to be not ok sometimes. Talking about mental health is vitally important and we hope sharing our stories encourages someone to open up.

Celebrations after roses

Play together, slay together.

First up, 1st XV player and Tour sec Gabriela Przygodzki ...

“Rugby has always been a part of my life but till I came to university I never realised how much it helped my mental health. When I felt homesick, going to training made me feel better, if my day didn't go well meeting up with one of my team mates reassured me and made my day one hundred times better. There were times during my three years here when I would struggle to leave bed but the commitment to the club and training is what got me up, boots on and all. I cant imagine that I'd have stayed at university if it wasnt for rugby and for uywrufc”

2nd XV player, Courtney Armstrong...

"Rugby for me helped me battle my depression, it gave me something to look forward to even when I was at my lowest. It was an outlet for me, a time to get out of my own head. Joining the university team extended my Rugby family, and has given me an extra support network."

1st XV centre and UYWRUFC Treasurer Alice Jones...

“Rugby is my salvation from the rigmarole of university life. The best feeling after a long day of lectures is when you step out onto a rugby pitch. The only thing your brain is focused on is the game at hand. This mental break from the pressures of university is something which has helped me to cope with stress and anxiety. Not only this but the support network within the club is amazing, I would never hesitate to open up to any of the girls. I can’t imagine coming into this scary world of adulting without the solace of rugby.”

Amy Curtin, Fundraising & Sponsorship Officer and 2nd XV staple, wrote a brave and important blog post earlier this year, sharing her experiences with mental health and rugby, which you can read, here. Here is a passage...

"Depression had convinced me that I am worthless, but rugby convinced me I have worth. Even if just for a couple of hours a week, on that pitch, during that match, I have worth to 14 other women. Any pass I’m in space to receive or ruck I help contest, I have worth. Any smile I share over a tough drill at training has worth. And I’m still not okay. But rugby is going to help me get there."

UYWRUFC President and second row Sasha Ellis (me, awkwardly talking about myself in third person)...

"For me, rugby is an outlet for any stresses, tensions, anxiety or problems in my life. I get to training, a match or the gym and everything disappears. Some of my best friends are from rugby and have been with me through ecstatic highs and fairly crappy lows. It's a massive extended, weird, all female family. My Grandad was diagnosed with, and died from cancer in the middle of the deadline and rugby season of my second year. I was doing many long journeys down to Wales which were emotionally and physically exhausting, along with stressing about getting university work done. Dealing with my grief was really hard, but the UYWRUFC girls gathered around me with love and support, and made me smile when I really didn't feel like it. Being back at training and at matches in between trips home helped me maintain some normality, and also allowed me to channel some of my grief into good energy via exercise."

A brave, strong, member who wished to remain anonymous...

"Playing rugby this year has really helped me with body confidence issues that I’ve struggled with in the past. I always hated my more muscly body so became obsessed with shrinking myself to a body type which was and is completely unrealistic for me. This meant I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food and led to an eating disorder. However, rugby has really changed my perception of myself: strength is obviously a great thing in rugby which has made me embrace my -strong- body and learn not to hate it. Although I can’t say that I’m now 100% confident, I’m getting there thanks to rugby as a sport and the hugely supportive atmosphere that UYWRUFC has."

Mental health awareness should not be limited to one week a year. That's why UYWRUFC talks about mental health all year round in the hope that it will encourage others to do so too. Having said that, Mental Health Awareness Week is an important conversation starter around mental health, which is vital and must continue into the future.

For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week, please visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week/resources

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