The new, forward-thinking Rugby charity, Brave Mind launches in February to help make rugby players’ mental health a priority across the nation. 

Brainchild of former Henley Rugby Club player, Simon Trower, Brave Mind is kicking off the charity’s message by partnering with Henley RFC with a pilot mental health programme this week. This innovative programme will support the men, women and youth players of the club, as well as parents, supporters and all associated within the clubs family by disclosing the taboo of mental health in rugby.  

There has always been a lack of understanding and stigma attached to mental health in society, and rugby is no different. The physical nature of the game and its social culture makes it difficult to connect on issues of mental health and openly sharing, understanding and being able to openly talk of our struggles. At Brave Mind, it is all about action: putting mental health on the same level as physical health.  

The goal and passion from the start was always to work in collaboration with Henley RFC as a launch club.  It is where it started for both Simon and the rest of the current Brave Mind team.  One club, and how Henley is focused on their community of all members gave such a natural start point. From minis and juniors through to the senior men’s and women’s squads respectively, they all have mental health - let’s make talking about and supporting one another with mental health, the norm. 

The club pilot is about setting up a supportive infrastructure and community.  The Henley Rugby community will be encouraged to connect and discover what mental health awareness is all about by learning from and sharing experiences.  Through understanding more, comes choice, opportunity and support. Social connectedness is key for emotional wellbeing as it provides belonging and sense of purpose. With such improved knowledge, attitude, communication and confidence, club environments such as Henley can evolve and help reduce negative bias and perception. 

The engaging discovery pilot comprises of three directives: Discover, Connect and Grow where a team of selected individuals trained as accredited mental health first aiders will connect with the players to work together on mental health, psychological safety and high performance.  In the current climate, this relies on webinars, on-line learning events, rugby and mental health key-note speaker events, and one on one ‘virtual’ drop-ins whereby specialist help, and support signposting is readily available.  Here will be the opportunity for players to connect in a safe space and discuss mental health and deepen connections.  In time, such support, connection and events will happen face to face once Covid restrictions are lifted.  Henley’s rugby players will also be issued with a free Moodbeam wrist band – a ground-breaking portable mood-tracking device – that measures feelings at just a click of a button, quantified in real-time data to a companion app. This model has been put together with support from experienced leaders, players, coaches, medical professionals, parents, partners, wives, husbands to the point where the team and the advisors firmly believe Brave Mind have created an actionable model for to embrace. 

The inaugural pilot scheme will hopefully scale around the country over the coming months, offering the support that so many players need.  After suffering from years of anxiety and depression in the game, Simon is clear about his ambition “At Brave Mind, we want to actively raise and positively support as much mental health awareness in rugby as possible, by creating a safe environment for people to be able to talk and to be listened to, non-judgementally. Let’s make talking about and supporting one another with mental health in the rugby community the norm.”

Chris Nixon, Chairman of Henley RFC commented "This is a truly groundbreaking initiative and we are delighted to be the first club to work closely with Brave Mind. Looking after our mental health has never been more important, and we want everyone associated with Henley Rugby Club to know how seriously we take this issue. Help and support is there if people need it, please don't suffer in silence." 

For more information about Brave Mind, please visit www.bravemind.co.uk.