SAIF Member JJ Burgess helps boost mental wellbeing

March 7, 2018   //   No Comments

This article was written by Justin Burgess of JJ Burgess for SAIFinsight magazine.

Following the tragic loss of three playing members of my rugby club, Welwyn, in Hertfordshire, in 18 months through suicide, I felt we had a social responsibility to offer support, guidance and a friendly ear to one another to do our utmost to prevent this from happening again.

I also wanted to take steps to help de-stigmatise mental health among young men and women. Equally, I wanted to raise the importance of mental wellbeing among our players and to make it equally as important as physical fitness. Mental illness is often not spoken about, and is sadly the biggest killer of young men in the UK aged 22 to 42. If you have a physical injury, you report it to your coach and seek advice and go see the club physio, but with mental issues many soldier on and hope it goes away.

Helped by some other like-minded club members, JOCA (Just One Click Away) was born. So called, as we felt that the whole subject needed a light approach and that it was felt that the three guys we lost really were the jokers of the pack. Should finances permit we hope to grow this service to Just One Call Away.

We have also encouraged our senior players to buddy-buddy with someone – and not the most obvious person that you would normally pair up with – and to contact each other weekly outside of the normal club nights.

There has also been significant interest from other local clubs to adopt the JOCA committee and we have started a Pass It On! programme, where we pass a JOCA-branded rugby ball to a club and they have a week in which to hold a mental health/ mental wellbeing event; once completed they pass the ball to another rugby club.

We fully appreciate and understand that suicide is the extreme here – through our website we will also be offering advice and guidance on issues of sexuality, addiction be it alcohol, drugs or gambling, advice on financial matters, applying for a job, writing a CV, attending interviews and so on – any area where life’s pressures may be affecting our young men and women.

What I can tell you is that we have had some really positive feedback and some great encouragement and support from our players, and members and the public away from the club. The Herts Refs, the RFU, Marks & Spencer, the Rotary Club of Herts Beds & Bucks, MIND and the Samaritans have all been hugely helpful and are championing our cause. Supporters have also taken part in marathons, half-marathons, Tough Mudders, etc. to raise awareness and much-needed funds.

Our greatest accolade is that we have our very own specialist counsellor to whom we can get access – within 48 hours – for anyone who turns to JOCA for support. This is some going when you consider that the current NHS waiting list to see a counsellor is up to 10 weeks.