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

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

‘Offloading is the best decision I ever made, it’s saved my life’

‘Offloading is the best decision I ever made, it’s saved my life’

Tomorrow (Thursday September 10) is World Suicide Prevention Day when Rugby League Cares will be working with other charities and agencies to raise awareness of the support that’s always available for anyone suffering poor mental health.

Figures released last week by the Office for National Statistics show that suicide rates in the UK are at a 20-year high, with the Yorkshire and Humber region having the highest rates.

Suicide is never a solution: as dark as the tunnel someone may find themselves in, light is always closer than they may think.

Our Offload mental wellbeing campaign has helped steer a number of men back into the light: we also have lots of other resources available to offer supports including a series of virtual workshops featuring some high profile people from within the sport.

Here is the testimony of Mark Davies, a fantastic, well-loved parent, partner and friend of many, who tells his story in his own words of the difference RL Cares and Offload has made to his life.


“I have struggled with mental health since I was 17. I had a really difficult relationship with my stepmum and things seemed to spiral.

The low point for me came a couple of years ago when my dad died. We were very close and had a strong common bond through Rugby League.

When he died I went off the rails. I tried to take my own life by drinking the best part of a bottle of morphine.  It was a dark, scary time and I wasn’t in a good place but for the sake of my wife and four children I decided I was going to sort myself out.

I saw a post on Facebook about Offload taking place at Warrington Wolves and thought I’d give it a try. It’s the best decision I have ever made.

Although I live in Warrington I’m a St Helens lad born and bred – my dad coached at Blackbrook – and it felt strange walking through the door at The Halliwell Jones Stadium for the first Offload fixture. Once the session began, though, I knew it was for me.

It’s not easy talking about mental illness but when you’re with a group of blokes who have so much in common with you it’s like a weight being lifted.

I have made some great friends through Offload, friends who will stay with me for life. They’ve told me that when I first came along I was a very angry man and seemed unapproachable. Hopefully that’s not the case anymore.

Our squad has set up its own Facebook group and are always in touch on Twitter. My involvement has inspired me move forward with my life. Things are now easier at home because I don’t get wound up as easily.

There’s so much variety within the fixtures and I’ve been able to take something from everyone. Ian Smith, the former Super League referee, has been incredibly supportive.

I was going through hell and speaking to Ian really did turn my life around.

He talked through the situation I was in at the time and together we found a way through it. We’ve become good friends, although that doesn’t stop me giving him some stick from time to time about his refereeing!

It’s also been great listening to people like Phil Veivers. I’ve looked up to Phil since I used to watch him from the terrace at Knowsley Road and it’s great enjoying banter with him at Offload fixtures.

I spoke to my doctor and told him about Offload. He questioned it on the grounds of equality because it’s a male-only thing but he’s impressed by the difference it’s made to me.

Offload provides something men like me can’t get within the NHS.

At the start it was hard to break down my own barriers. I am old school, I kept things to myself and wasn’t a nice person to be around.

Offload has smashed down those barriers and not only have I helped myself I am now helping others.

I’ve just started something called The Shoe Project which involves collecting unwanted shoes from people in the UK and sending them overseas for children in Afghanistan and Syria to wear.

I feel like a better person because of Offload and I can’t thank Rugby League Cares and Warrington Wolves enough for the difference they’ve made to my life.

However, they’ll never get a Warrington shirt on the back of this St Helens lad, no matter how hard my Offload squadmates keep trying!”

Men in St Helens get set to Offload in 2020

Men in St Helens get set to Offload in 2020

Offload is coming to St Helens!

The hugely successful men’s mental fitness programme run by Rugby League Cares will kick-off at the home of the Betfred Super League champions in the New Year.

Offload is a health initiative designed by RL Cares with input from State of Mind and is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. It helps men tackle issues such as depression and anxiety and develop coping strategies to successfully manage the crises we all face in everyday life.

Staged over 10 weekly ‘fixtures’, Offload is presented by former Rugby League players and officials who share their experiences of dealing with pressure, health problems and challenging situations.

Offload fixtures at St Helens will also feature input from OK TO ASK, a campaign which aims to break down the stigma of talking about suicide.

St Helens has one of the highest suicide rates in the UK – 75 people in the borough have taken their own lives in the last three years – and OK TO ASK focuses on the life-saving conversations anyone could have with someone thinking of suicide.

Liam Parker, Health Projects Manager at RL Cares, said: “Offload has a proven track-record of both changing and saving lives and we are delighted to have opportunity to deliver our programme to the people of St Helens.

“Over 1,000 men across the North West have already attended Offload fixtures and we know from the feedback they have given us what a positive difference it makes to the quality of not only their lives, but the lives of their families and the people around them.

“Working in partnership with Saints Community Development Foundation, St Helens Borough Council and the OK TO ASK campaign will enable us to continue that good work and empower more men to be able to cope, and talk comfortably, about important health issues.”

Chris Chamberlain, Project and Finance Manager at Saints Foundation, said: “After extensive consultation and understanding the local needs from across St Helens, it became evident that Offload would be great to support people within St Helens.

“Saints Foundation has been working hard behind the scenes with partners at the local authority and Rugby League Cares to bring Offload to St Helens. This is an extremely positive project which has worked well in other local areas and we are pleased to bring Offload to St Helens.”

Offload has already acquired national recognition for the successful way it has engaged men in what is traditionally a taboo health subject since it was launched in 2017.

Since then, Offload has made a positive impact on the lives of the men who have attended fixtures run at Salford Red Devils, Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings.

Earlier this month, Offload was nominated for a prestigious ‘Sport for Social Change Award’ at the 2019 British Journalist Sport Awards: the programme was also highly rated in an independent evaluation conducted by health experts at Edge Hill University.

That report found that men who have completed a set of Offload fixtures:

  • Have a better understanding of how to look after their mental and physical fitness;
  • Have more positive and effective strategies to cope in tough times;
  • Are more resilient and more able to handle setbacks;
  • Have a stronger and bigger support network;
  • Have better relationships at home;
  • Have increased aspirations about being in work and/or training;
  • Have started volunteering more.

Offload fixtures at St Helens are aimed at men aged 16 and over, are free to attend and will take place at the Totally Wicked Stadium with dates and times in early 2020 to be confirmed.

For more information on Offload at St Helens, or to sign up to the programme, please contact Saints Community Development Foundation at offload@saintsrlfc.com.

RL Cares secures Offload funding for two more years

RL Cares secures Offload funding for two more years

Rugby League Cares is delighted to announce it has secured funding to deliver the charity’s successful men’s health and wellbeing project, Offload for a further two years.

Offload has already transformed the lives of over 1,000 men in the North West of England since its launch in April 2017 and the new funding from the National Lottery Community Fund will build on those achievements.

Delivered at three professional Rugby League clubs, Warrington Wolves, Salford Red Devils and Widnes Vikings, Offload involves men learning the techniques that Rugby League clubs use to manage the mental and physical fitness of players.

Staged over 10 weeks, Offload ‘fixtures’ are delivered by former players and officials and allow men to build their own mental fitness, develop coping strategies to challenge difficult situations and learn how to recognise when people close to them might need their support.

Chris Rostron, the Head of RL Cares, said: “This is terrific news, both for the charity and for men across the North West who now have the opportunity to engage with our hugely successful Offload programme.

“Some of the feedback we have received from many of the men involved in Offload over the last two years has been little short of remarkable: Offload is not only changing lives for the better, it’s saving them as well.

“Good mental health is really important for all of us but for men, in particular, it can be difficult to seek help or advice when things go wrong.

“Offload breaks down those barriers and empowers participants to take care of their own mental wellbeing and empowers them with the tools they need to reach out to others.

“I would like to thank the three club foundations for the commitment they have shown to making Offload such an overwhelming success.”

An independent evaluation of Offload has been conducted by researchers at Edge Hill University and reveals that participation brought about increased confidence and self-esteem, improved social and emotional connections, reduced substance abuse, an increase in physical activity and enhanced working and personal relationships.

The evaluation also revealed that after taking part in Offload:

* 78 per cent of men are more aware of how to look after their health and wellbeing;

* 63 per cent are keen to make a change to improve their education, training or employment;

* 74 per cent are more able to cope with everyday lie;

* 66 per cent have a better relationship with their family

* 73 per cent feel more able to manage setbacks and challenging situations.

The Edge Hill research team was led by Professor Andy Smith, who said: “We were delighted to undertake research which will positively impact on the mental health of men from some of the most disadvantaged communities in North West England.

“We worked with the clubs and delivery staff from State of Mind Sport to design ways of effectively engaging men taking part in Offload, and to allow them to develop positive ways of coping with the mental health challenges they experience.

“How many men revealed to us that the programme has literally saved their life is quite humbling and is testimony to the hard work of everyone involved.”

One participant said: “I can honestly say Offload saved my life. That night that I went to Offload for the very first time, I was planning to do it [attempt to take my own life] again, so I can’t sing its praises enough to be honest. I wouldn’t be here without it.”

Another Offload squad member said: “I used to just turn to drugs and alcohol. That’s what I used to do every weekend, most nights, but now I don’t. Every time I feel down, I do something else that keeps me going, like exercise.”

Developed and delivered with the help of State of Mind and other agencies, Offload fixtures are free to attend and open to all men aged 18 and over.

For more information on Offload at Warrington, Salford and Widnes please click here