Wednesday, 22 February 2017

You need to talk about it. Don't bottle it up.

There have been a number of unfortunate deaths recently of former professional rugby players.

Springbok (South Africa representative) Joost van der Westhuizen passed away at the age of 45 due to motor neurone disease (Lou Gehrig's disease).

Former All Black (New Zealand representative) Sione Lauaki passed away about a week after van der Westhuizen at the age of 35 because of heart and kidney problems.

And of course, 18 months ago we witnessed the untimely passing of arguably the greatest name in the professional rugby era, Jonah Lomu.

These three players had been sick for quite awhile and it is unfortunate for their young families that they had to leave so early in their lives especially after they had given rugby fans around the world so much pleasure in watching their play on the field.

Only a few days ago I read with shock once again that 37 year old former Wallaby (Australian representative) Dan Vickerman had passed away. I must admit that I'm a typically insular All Black fan in that I support the All Blacks through thick and thin and I don't really know much about the other teams but I had heard of Dan Vickerman and knew that he played lock in the Australian team. To hear that he was only 37 was shocking and I feel very sorry for his wife and his two young children. I can't even begin to imagine what they are going through right now.

Unfortunately, I had heard the news coming out of Australia that Vickerman may have taken his own life. I read this article which suggests that to be true. If that is in fact the case, that is tragic that someone so young and who has accomplished a great deal both on the sporting field and in the academic and business circle has done that.

All Black legend (and my favourite player) Sir John Kirwan is almost as well known in New Zealand now for his work in bringing to the public's attention that people, even macho rugby players have mental health issues and he is dedicating his life to help people overcome these issues.

Sir John urges people and especially men to talk about their mental health problems. In New Zealand and in rugby in particular it is almost seen as a weakness to talk about these kinds of things. It's something that "sheilas" do.

In the past, talking about that as a man in particular you risked being called a "pansy" or a "pussy" or something similar because men are supposed to be men and we don't have things like that.

As we all know, that is a load of rubbish and if you feel that way at all I would suggest talking to a professional or even someone that you trust, a close friend for example. Sometimes just the idea of getting what you are thinking out of your head and into the open can feel very therapeutic.

People who prefer to spend time with themselves to recharge I believe can be susceptible to overthinking and bouts of depression. We understand that you need to recharge your batteries by yourself and that is fine but when you start to cocoon yourself in your own world and not have that outlet with other people you can get yourself in trouble. So spend time alone but realise that you need to get out and meet people occasionally.

I'm not a medical professional by any means. This is just what I have experienced in my lifetime and to get out and about and talk to people is the best medicine.

Don't be frightened to talk about it. You owe it to yourself.

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