RL Cares helping build a better approach to mental health

RL Cares helping build a better approach to mental health

Rugby League Cares’s expertise in delivering successful mental health initiatives was recognised when the charity took part in a recent round-table event featuring a panel of geotechnical engineers, industry body representatives and mental health advocates.

The event was hosted by Ground Engineering magazine and set out to discuss how the needs of employees in the industry sector can be better supported.

It also considered the impact of mental health issues on the wider construction industry and examined gaps in support for those needing help.

The panel members also discussed their personal reasons for advocating better mental health support and the actions business leaders should take to improve mental wellbeing among employees.

RL Cares was represented by our Health Project Manager Wendy Barr, who helps lead the charity’s mental fitness initiative Offload, which recently received funding from Movember to enable it to be delivered to men working in the construction industry.

“We’ve run the Offload programme with some construction companies already and the feedback was fantastic,” said Wendy. “There’s still a big hill to climb in tackling mental health in the construction industry and if we can play a small part in it, then that’s great.”

The round table discussion featured contributions from many areas of the engineering and construction industry, including Paul McCann of Dunelm Geotechnical & Environmental UK and overseas operations director and British Drilling Association chair.

McMann agreed that the industry has increased its awareness of mental health issues.

But he believes it still has a long way to go to provide meaningful mental health support to staff. Often, he says, the only type of permanent support offered to employees on construction sites is a phone number pinned to a noticeboard or handed out in a leaflet.

“That would be one of the last things that I would feel that I could do – to pick up that phone on a site and identify myself,” he reflected.

Mott MacDonald technical director of engineering geology, Jim Gelder has suffered from depression for a number of years. He said that real support was about “finding opportunities to engage with people.”

Gelder suggested one way of opening a conversation about mental health with employees could be to include questions that invite employees to share their feelings during a short presentation to the workforce. This could take place during the morning toolbox talk.

“If you think about how safety has come on in the last 30 years, the toolbox talk is integral to that because it’s your chance as management to really push the messages that you want to push through to the workforce.

“So, you could just have one line in the toolbox talk that says, how’s the weather in your head today?”

Concept Engineering Consultants business development and process manager Dave Cage, who has also struggled with poor mental health, noted that tools such as toolbox talks, phone numbers and mental health first aiders are important.

However, he said that “the only thing that turns those from being just a tick box exercise that some companies do to something meaningful is changing the culture”.

“It’s a much bigger challenge to actually improve the culture of a company rather than to just put the tools in place.

“And that’s where we need to be investing most of our time,” he added.

To read more about the conversations on mental health in construction and drilling at the Ground Engineering round table event click here

If you are involved in a construction company and would like to know more about how Offload can help your colleagues benefit become and stay mentally fit, please contact our Partnerships Manager Nav Uppal – nav.uppal@rlcares.org.uk

How RL Cares is promoting good mental health in Parliament

The President of the Rugby Football League, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has revealed that the work of Rugby League Cares has inspired him to put in place a mental fitness and health programme for MPs and staff working in Westminster.

In a fascinating interview on the BBC 5 Live rugby league podcast, Sir Lindsay, the Speaker of the House of Commons, talks about the work of RL Cares and the role the charity plays in safeguarding the mental wellbeing of the sport’s players.

Speaking to BBC rugby league correspondent Dave Woods, Sir Lindsay, the MP for Chorley and a lifelong Warrington fan, outlines why he is so passionate about the sport and its communities.

“Rugby league is a family, a family which cares about itself and that’s the way it should be,” said Sir Lindsay.

“It’s about the health and wellbeing of people involved in the game. The players are tough, hard people but mental health affects every level of society and I’ve got to say that Rugby League (Cares) recognised that early.

“They have put support in place and they’ve been there to help players who’ve needed it.

“There’s a lot of pressure put on people playing the game, both professionally and at amateur level, and I’ve got to say that’s why rugby league is good.

“It’s the coming together of the family, the setting up of the charity (RL Cares), having a support network in there and training people who can look for the signs of mental health and having a champion within each club as well.

“We have the same (issues) in Parliament with mental health and that’s why I have beefed up and put together a health and wellbeing package, not only with (physical) illness but with mental health.

“Politicians don’t want to talk about mental health, they don’t ask for help and support, and it’s the same with staff as well.

“I had seen what rugby league had done, I’d seen Rugby League Cares and I wanted to make sure Parliament cares in the same way for the people who work in this village.”

To listen to the full BBC 5 Live podcast, click here

New ‘Rugby League Cares for NHS’ project supports healthcare heroes

New ‘Rugby League Cares for NHS’ project supports healthcare heroes

A ground-breaking new partnership is harnessing the power of sport to enhance the mental and physical health of our NHS frontline heroes.

The independent charity, Rugby League Cares is working alongside staff employed in three NHS trusts across the North West to share the tools and techniques professional athletes use to enjoy good mental fitness and build resilience.

‘Rugby League Cares for NHS’ aims to keep NHS staff happy, healthy, productive and engaged at work, and in their home lives, at a time when they have been under greater pressure than ever before.

Over the last 18 months, Covid-19 has placed an enormous strain on healthcare workers, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

This exciting new project is seeing RL Cares’s clinically-trained team of current and former Rugby League players support staff within the Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals, Bridgewater Community Healthcare and St Helens and Knowsley Foundation Trusts.

The players offer mental health and wellbeing support in both group and one-to-one situations, as well as providing physical health opportunities within the NHS work environment.

‘Rugby League Cares for NHS’ builds on the success of the charity’s hugely successful Offload programme, a celebrated men’s mental fitness initiative that has transformed the lives of thousands of people in Rugby League communities over the last four years.

Offload has been cited by academics at Edge Hill University as a global example of best practice for delivering mental health and sport programmes

‘Rugby League Cares for NHS’ is being managed by former England and Warrington prop Paul Wood and ex-Salford, Widnes and Castleford forward Lee Jewitt, who have joined the charity in full-time roles after being involved in Offload for the last few years.

Paul Wood said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to support our NHS heroes through these difficult times.

“RL Cares’s mental and physical health programmes have a brilliant track record in enhancing the lives of people in Rugby League communities and I have no doubt this brilliant new project will have a positive impact on NHS colleagues who face enormous challenges every day.”

Lee Jewitt said: “As Rugby League players, we’re acutely aware of the benefits of working together as a team and we’ll bring that knowledge, together with own personal experiences of coping with stress and pressure, to help the staff who get involved.

“We’ve been running a pilot project over the last few weeks and the feedback received so far from people working at all levels of the NHS has been fantastic.

“It is to the great credit of all three NHS trusts that they recognise both the need to support their colleagues and the many benefits our programme will bring.”

’Rugby League Cares for NHS’ complements existing programmes within the three foundations and is completely confidential.

Michelle Cloney, Chief People Officer for Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals, said: “The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected people in so many different ways, so we are really pleased to be working with RL Cares to enhance our existing staff health and wellbeing offer.

“The feedback from teams that Paul and Lee have been working in one-to-one and group sessions has been really encouraging and shows how appreciated their support and advice is at what continues to be a challenging time for NHS staff.”

Paula Woods, Director of People and Organisational Development at Bridgewater Community Healthcare, said: “As well as being well recognised for their outstanding contributions and accomplishments to the world of Rugby League and beyond, Lee and Paul will become familiar faces at Bridgewater.

“This is a really exciting partnership between RL Cares and the NHS.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically affected our work-life balance and working environments. It remains really tough out there for our NHS teams, so it’s important that we do all we can to help support our colleagues stay both mentally and physically fit and healthy.”

Adam Hodkinson, the Head of Operations, Health, Work and Wellbeing for St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘’This is an exciting opportunity to work in partnership with RL Cares, to enhance and provide a unique health and wellbeing offer of support to our people.

“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has, and will continue, to challenge us both physically and mentally, especially as we go into the winter period. We are looking forward to piloting this project and are very hopeful for its future success.’’

RL Cares urges Rugby League to pull together

RL Cares urges Rugby League to pull together

Rugby League Cares Head of Welfare Steve McCormack has issued an impassioned plea for the sport to rally together as it emerges from the most difficult 18-month period in its history.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been keenly felt in Rugby League communities and players, officials and administrators across all levels are working hard to deliver a sport that means so much to so many people.

Most people are showing patience and appreciation for that hard work, as well as continued faith in the game they all love, but in recent months there has been an under-current of misguided and often harmful negativity from some quarters, especially on social media.

Steve McCormack said: “In my role as Head of Welfare at Rugby League Cares, I see on a daily basis how hard everyone in our sport is working and how caring and passionate our stakeholders are.

“I see the sacrifices the players and coaches make to play the games; how our administrators are fighting hard to ensure our sport is thriving when Rugby League, like all sports and businesses, is going through trying times; how hard our match officials are working; the work our club CEOs are doing to ensure we have clubs to support; and the sterling efforts of our community clubs to enhance people’s lives on a daily basis.

“I also see the selfless work the medical staff and Covid officers do at clubs, under immense pressure, to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone takes precedence.

“It is really important to understand that, even though we all look forward to watching our clubs in action at the weekend, the most important thing is the health of players and staff, and the health of their families. Nothing should compromise this.

“Unfortunately, I also see the impact of some of the unjust negativity the people in our sport receive. We all know that being involved in professional sport comes with pressure and public scrutiny and – in most cases – rightly so.

“However, the tone of some of the comments on social media, especially the hate-filled and ill-informed criticism I read on a daily basis, is both unnecessary and unacceptable.

“No-one in our great game, be they a player, an administrator, a match official or a fan of another club, deserves personal abuse.

“Thankfully, these people are very much in the minority and their behaviour has no place in Rugby League.

“We are rightfully proud of our sport’s ability to rally round and do the right thing when times are tough: we recognise the importance of community, of the wider Rugby League family and of the need to be decent, empathetic and honest.

“Now, more than ever, we need to embrace those values and recognise the impact our actions can have on the wellbeing of others.

“Like all sports, Rugby League is facing some considerable challenges in the post-pandemic era, but we have much to look forward to.

“None of us should ever lose sight of the fact that Rugby League is the best sport in the world, with the best supporters and communities that many are envious of.

“Let’s pull together, look after each other and make sure our game and all the people involved are able to flourish like we know they can.

“Rugby League Cares is proud of the role it plays in supporting our communities and we will continue to put Rugby League people at the heart of everything we do.”

Mental fitness takes centre stage as Hull FC get ready to Offload

Mental fitness takes centre stage as Hull FC get ready to Offload

Rugby League Cares is delighted to announce that Offload, our hugely successful men’s mental fitness programme, is coming to Hull!

From next month, RL Cares and the Hull FC Community Foundation will work together on a pilot project that will deliver six free Offload ‘fixtures’ at the club’s Community Hub at the MKM Stadium to men aged 16 and over.

Hull FC Foundation will be running Offload fixtures on six consecutive Thursday evenings from October on a range of important themes, including stress and coping, building a positive mindset, analysing negative thinking and building resilience.

The hour-long fixtures will be led by RL Cares’ mental health ambassadors, who are all ex-professional players who are trained to use their own life experiences to help participants.

Offload squad members can participate as often or as little as they feel comfortable with.  The fixtures are delivered in a ‘no-pressure’ situation and all information shared at fixtures is treated in strictest confidence within each squad.

James Price, Head of the Hull FC Community Foundation, said: “It is a real privilege to have the opportunity to collaborate with Offload, who can hopefully make a difference to Hull FC fans who may be struggling or unsure about their mental wellbeing.

“It goes without saying that the last year and a half has been challenging for us in more ways than one, so it is fantastic that we can partner up with Offload to help local men deal with some of the issues they may be facing.

“A whole host of clubs are already involved with Offload, so it is pleasing that Hull FC can get on board with the fantastic project.”

More than 4,000 men have already taken part in Offload to learn the tools and techniques needed to enjoy good mental wellbeing. Offload is already being delivered at nine professional Rugby League clubs; Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax Panthers, Huddersfield Giants, Leeds Rhinos, St Helens, Salford Red Devils, Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings.

RL Cares Head of Community Emma Goldsmith said: “We are thrilled to be able to deliver Offload fixtures at Hull FC and are looking forward to making the same positive difference to the lives of Hull FC fans as we have seen at the other clubs.

“Offload has a fantastic ability to not just change lives, but to save lives as well. I’m sure all the men who sign up to Offload at Hull will enjoy taking part.

“We know that lots of men in Rugby League communities are struggling in these very challenging times and Offload can help equip them with the techniques and skills needed to develop and maintain good mental wellbeing.”

To sign up for Offload at Hull FC, or for more information, please email Hull FC legend and RL Cares Offload ambassador Lee Crooks, lee.crooks@hullfc.com

Project management experts are ready to Offload with RL Cares

Project management experts are ready to Offload with RL Cares

Rugby League Cares has teamed up with Commissioning Management and Technical Project Management consultancy Logi-tek to deliver the charity’s acclaimed Offload mental fitness programme to the company’s workforce across the UK and Europe.

Offload is a clinically-designed mental wellbeing initiative that equips participants with the tools and techniques needed to build and maintain a winning mindset.

Presented by a team of former professional sportsmen who share their experiences of tackling challenging situations in their own lives, Offload has had a transformational impact on the lives of thousands of men since its launch four years ago.

Logi-tek have nearly 20 years of experience delivering customised and complex solutions – spanning a wide range of sectors and projects including trading floors, data centres, pharmaceutical, laboratories an office fit out.

Logi-tek have contracted RL Cares to deliver three virtual Offload ‘fixtures’ to its staff during April and May as part of a commitment to safeguarding their mental health.

The issues covered include coping with stress, building resilience and how to acquire a positive mindset.

RL Cares’ Community and Welfare Manager Keith Senior, the ex-Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain international centre, said: “It’s been a pleasure to deliver Offload fixtures to Logi-tek staff, who have all been very receptive to the tips and advice we’ve shared so far.

“It’s fantastic that a progressive company such as Logi-tek recognises both the importance of protecting the mental fitness of its staff and the success of Offload and Rugby League Cares.”

Chris Dodd, Logi-tek’s Commercial Director EMEA, said: “One of the core objectives for Logi-tek is to ensure that, in delivering the highest quality of services to our clients, our team are aware of potential mental health challenges arising in any working environment.

“COVID-19 has focused many people on the need to be ever more mindful of mental health and the Offload programme delivered by Rugby League Cares allow us to encourage the team to look out for themselves, one another and the people with whom we work each day.”

Offload was recently hailed as a “model of best practice” for engaging with people on issues around mental wellbeing in a report produced by academics at Edge Hill University.

The programme is currently being delivered at nine professional Rugby League clubs across the north of England, as well as a handful of leading companies including the Environment Agency, SSE, the Co-operative and Logi-tek.

For more information on Offload please click here

If you are interested in how Offload can make your employees healthier, happier and more productive, please email our Head of Community, Emma Goldsmith, emma.goldsmith@rlcares.org.uk

For more information on Logi-tek and the services the business offers, please click here

Rugby League unites to boost young people’s mental fitness

Rugby League unites to boost young people’s mental fitness

Rugby League Cares, Rugby League World Cup 2021 and the Rugby Football League are teaming up to support junior players at amateur clubs across the UK who have been struggling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The cancellation of matches and training, restrictions on movement and social distancing measures introduced during the lockdown have been keenly felt by many young people.

Now the independent charity RL Cares, RLWC2021 and the RFL have come together to deliver a series of mental fitness and resilience workshops to players aged between 12 and 18, their coaches and supporting adults.

RL Cares has considerable experience promoting good mental health and will be using that expertise to equip teenagers with the techniques and knowledge that will enable them to manage their own mental fitness.

The 45-minute long workshops will be delivered online by former professional Rugby League players who have undergone specialist training with RL Cares.

Emma Goldsmith, the Head of Grants at RL Cares, said: “The lockdown has not been an easy time for any of us but it has been particularly tough on some of the most vulnerable people within Rugby League communities.

“The sport has a wonderful, proven ability to change behaviours for the better and lift the mood of participants of all ages: for the last 100-plus days our young people have had all that taken away.

“After speaking to coaches and club officials, it’s clear that many teenagers are suffering low mood and feeling frustrated by what’s been happening in their world.

“Our workshops will get across the message that it’s OK not to feel OK and that there are ways to feel better.

“Playing Rugby League boosts both physical and mental health: the workshops will give young people tips and advice on managing their mental welfare so that when the restrictions are lifted and they can start playing again, they will be in the best emotional shape.”

The partnership between RL Cares and RLWC2021 builds on the forthcoming joint Ahead of the Game initiative run in conjunction with Movember, the global men’s health charity.

Ahead of the Game will work with community Rugby League clubs across the country to with the aim of improving mental resilience in adolescent athletes and raising mental fitness literacy and awareness among players, parents, and coaches.

The mental wellbeing and resilience workshops programme will help teenage players tackle the challenge of lockdown until Ahead of the Game begins in the autumn.

Tracy Power, Legacy Director of RLWC2021 said: “In January we launched our Mental Fitness Charter with the aim of making a difference to those playing and coaching Rugby League across England.

“Since making that commitment we have faced an unparalleled global crisis that has significantly impacted the mental health of our young players

“By working with RL Cares to support the virtual workshop programme we hope to make a positive difference, that will provide young players with the help and advice they need to during this difficult period and beyond.”

The RL Cares mental fitness and resilience workshops for young people aged between 12 and 18 will begin on July 13 and are open to all community Rugby League clubs. To book a workshop, or for more details, please email competitions@rfl.co.uk

Rugby League United to defy Coronavirus by building mental fitness

Rugby League United to defy Coronavirus by building mental fitness

Rugby League is coming together like never before to preserve and enhance the mental and physical fitness of players, coaches, fans, match officials and administrators alike during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The sport is proud to announce the launch of Rugby League United, a campaign led by the independent charity, Rugby League Cares in association with the RFL, Super League (Europe) and RLWC2021.

Rugby League United is a response to requests from Government, the NHS and Sport England for sport to take the lead in keeping people mentally as well as physically fit during these challenging times.

Working alongside players, community organisations and national mental health charities such as Mind and Samaritans, Rugby League United will equip people with the practical tools and techniques they need to stay in the best of health over the difficult weeks and months ahead.

The campaign builds on the fantastic work already undertaken by RL Cares and club foundations in delivering the Offload programme – a men’s mental fitness project aimed at tackling depression and anxiety, which has already engaged with over 2,000 men since its inception in 2017.

Coronavirus restrictions mean that face-to-face Offload activity has been suspended and replaced by ‘virtual’ support to Offload squad members: that support will now be extended to people at every level of the wider Rugby League family.

Rugby League United will see RL Cares, the RFL, Super League (Europe) and RLWC2021 work with current and former players to support the mental fitness of all communities. The campaign will offer guidance on areas such as:

  • looking after yourself during social distancing measures;
  • staying active at home;
  • how to look after your nutrition and how this affects mental fitness;
  • links to 24-hour support;
  • how you can manage your stress and anxiety during this period; and
  • how to promote good relationships at home if you are feeling stressed.

There will be weekly live and interactive e-Offload sessions every Tuesday, including Q&As with current and former players, Mindfulness clinics and live sessions on how to look after your own and your friends’ and families’ mental fitness.

Sessions will be delivered through the easily accessible Zoom platform: links will be shared across the sport’s social media channels.

Rugby League United will also feature short videos filmed by current and former players which focus on how they are looking after their own mental fitness, alongside hints and tips on how you can look after loved ones, family members, close friends, and work colleagues.

For more information and help on managing your mental fitness, please visit the RL Cares, RFL, Betfred Super League and RLWC2021 websites, or follow the Twitter page @Offload_RL