Caregivers and partners

As a caregiver, partner or a friend you play a massive role in supporting a player during their rugby career.  Although rugby is just one aspect of yours and their lives, it can pose some challenges and tough times when it comes to wellbeing and mental fitness.

 Knowing how you can support best as well as looking after yourself is really important. 

 

Although rugby is just one aspect of life, it can pose some challenges and tough times when it comes to wellbeing and mental fitness. When faced with injury, retirement and performance pressure, the risk of experiencing mental distress, depression and anxiety increases. It is very common for young people not to seek help, even when they need it. Research tells us that our young men are the least likely to seek help, and our women are 1.5 times more likely to experience mental distress than any other group.

There are lots of things we can be doing as support people. These three key steps are a great place to start:

  1. Identification: Knowing what to look for.
  2. Action: Knowing what to do about it.
  3. Support for you: Knowing how to look after yourself. 

1.Identification: Knowing what to look for

It can be really challenging to know what to look for, when to be concerned and when to take action. Check out the common signs of mental distress below as a good starting point for what to keep an eye out for:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Isolating themselves from others
  • Speaking about suicide or self-harm
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Not taking care of their physical appearance/hygiene
  • Noticeably agitated or anxious

If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, make time to have a conversation . If you’re really concerned or you think they are at risk of harming themselves or somebody else, then you need to seek help now, click here for emergency contacts. 

 

2.Action: Knowing what to do about it

Noticing concerning changes in someone you care about can be a worrying time. Remember that everyone goes through ups and downs and something as small as asking them how they are and reminding them you’re there for them is a huge help. 

We know that, for young people in particular, asking for help can be extremely tough for fear of being judged, feeling abnormal or not knowing who to talk to. 

Make yourself available and approachable to talk. They might not take you up on the offer straight away but knowing that they have a safe space to offload their feeling when they need to is important.

Listen to Nehe Milner-Skudder share his thoughts on listening without judgement. 

 

Helpful tips for having a conversation:

Listen

Give them time to speak without interruption and let them know you are really listening. Save your advice for later. 

Body language

Make sure that you show them you want to listen by being relaxed, maintaining eye contact and ignoring other distractions like phone calls. 

Don't judge

Even if how they feel doesn’t make sense to you, it will be very real for them. Remove judgement when you speak with them. 

Acknowledge

Really acknowledge how they are feeling and let them know it is OK to feel that way. Saying things like “it sounds like you feel…is that right?”, lets them know you’re listening. 

Ask questions

Try using open-ended questions to find out more such as “can you tell me more about that?” or “what makes you feel that way?”.

Remind them they are not alone

Sometimes we may not know the best way to help. Even if you don’t know the answer, let them know you are there for them and that, together, you can find someone who has the right skills to help. 

3. Support for you: Knowing how to look after yourself

Looking out for others and providing support can be a challenging job. It’s easy to put you and your needs second when your focus is on helping someone else you care about. Providing the best support possible means you also need to ensure you are looking after yourself too.

Listen to Sharon Gibson (partner of Derren Witcombe) share her thoughts on prioritising your needs too. 

  • Take time out for yourself:  Block out time in your week to do something you enjoy, this could be as simple as watching a movie or going for a walk. 
  • Fuel your body: Make sure you’re eating regular meals and avoid alcohol and processed foods as much as possible.
  • Talk to others: Identify someone you trust that you can speak t when you’ve got stuff you need to get off your chest. 
  • Prioritise the important things: Write a list of all the tasks you need to get done in order of importance, it’s OK to say no to things. 
  • Ask for help: Everyone needs a little extra help sometimes, know that it’s OK to let others help you too, this could be a professional, a support group etc. 
  • Get good sleep: Do your best to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night and try and stick to a consistent bedtime to give your body and mind time to recharge.