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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!”
The riders on Rugby League Cares’s epic fundraising adventure will cycle from Niagara Falls to New York City in a stunning kit designed by multi award-winning architectural practice – and Empire State 500 Principal Partners – Studio SDA Architects.
Studio SDA Architects have harnessed the talents of their team of top designers to create the official ride kit, which is based on a stars and stripe design to reflect the American theme of the ride, and incorporates the RL Cares logo in the alternative jersey.
Simon Lewis-Pierpoint, the Managing Director and co-founder of Studio SDA Architects, will again take to the saddle as a member of the Empire State 500 peloton, having completed the UK Red Ride to Wembley from the north of England with RL Cares in both 2018 and 2019.
“As a practice we have been commissioned to create some of the most exclusive luxury properties in the world with some of the most talented and driven architects the industry has to offer.
“Our architects have risen to the challenge of producing the bespoke kit for the Empire State 500. It’s a fantastic fundraising challenge and we think the kit captures the energy and excitement of the event.
“Studio SDA Architects are delighted to support the ride as its Principal Partner. RL Cares does an excellent job across the whole sporting arena and their funds raised will make a real, positive difference to the lives of many people, including the playing community.”
Simon, a former Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls player who played his junior rugby in his hometown of Halifax, will join 21 other riders, including ex-England, Great Britain, Bradford and South Sydney star Sam Burgess, on the UK Red Empire State 500.
Head of RL Cares Chris Rostron said: “Simon and his team have done an outstanding job on designing the ride kit and we are delighted to have Studio SDA Architects on board as Principal Partners of the UK Red Empire State 500.
“Simon and Studio SDA Architects have been great supporters of the charity with their involvement in the Ride to Wembley in 2018 and 2019 and we’re delighted that they are continuing our special partnership.”
After attending the Toronto Wolfpack v St Helens fixture on Saturday May 2, the riders will set off from the shadow of the famous Niagara Falls bound for Central Park on a 500-mile off-road cycling challenge.
Over the next four days they will follow the path of the Erie Canal through the historic heart of the Iroquois nation to Albany before heading south through the Catskill mountains and along the Hudson River, arriving in Central Park, Manhattan, on the afternoon of Friday May 8.
Studio SDA Architects were awarded the Northern Design Awards ‘Best Residential Architecture Practice for three consecutive years in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and won Best Residential Architecture Concept in both 2016 and 2017.
To support the work of Rugby League Cares, please sponsor Simon by clicking here