Here at the Harlequins Foundation we’re passionate about mental health. As many as one in four adults struggle with mental health problems, but what we often forget is that one in eight young people do too. More of us are affected every year by mental health problems, but there is still a heavy stigma around talking about it, and the youngest members of our society are more vulnerable than ever.
Today marks the UK’s second annual Youth Mental Health Day, founded by stem4. The past year has seen young people suffer at the hand of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has taken a toll on their mental health. The course of their lives has changed, and they have had no say in the matter. That is why it is so important now that we take extra care of the young people in our lives to promote happiness and healthiness.
To mark the day we’d like to take a look at the five ways to wellbeing – five steps to improving our mental health, developed by the New Economics Foundation – and how we can achieve them all through the power of rugby.
The first step is pretty straightforward: connect with other people. We have a fundamental need to be close to other people, to form connections with them, and be a valued member of a community. Rugby has the power to bring people together, whether it’s through common interest or playing on a team, and we seek to strengthen the bonds between supporters everywhere.
Young people who struggle with their mental health need support and connections. Giving them the space and ability to speak with other people about their feelings makes a real difference in their lives. METTLE, The Harlequins Foundation’s flagship mental health programme, builds connections with young people to help improve their mental health and resilience against times of adversity.
We are also proud to have a partnership with the Movember Foundation and their Ahead of the Game project, which aims to normalise men talking about their feelings through community sport and reduce suicide rates by 25%. By enabling parents to open conversations about mental health, we can prevent issues before they occur.
Physical activity benefits both our bodies and our minds, and it doesn’t get much more active than rugby! It’s important to be active in a way that you enjoy, but there are plenty of other ways to be more active – even as little as taking the stairs rather than the lift. If you’re struggling to think of ways to get active you can always take a look at the Home Workout videos on our website!
Taking notice is about being aware of the moment you’re in, your surroundings and your feelings; it’s better known as mindfulness. The Harlequins are the first team in the Premiership to introduce mindfulness sessions for players, and the benefit has been immense. Some of our players use the sessions to improve their performance in-game, but others have found that mindfulness makes an impact in every aspect of their lives. Try it out and see how it can benefit you!
Learning something new, or achieving our goals, makes us feel more confident about ourselves. While today’s youth have been shown to be hopeful about their future, and believe that they can achieve their goals, they often find that their lack of confidence is a barrier.
Giving kindness to people in need improves their lives as well as our mental health. As the charitable arm of The Harlequins we harness the power of rugby to give back to the community, but we would not exist without the team or its supporters. Our supporters and volunteers enable us to do the work we do, and we are all joined through a love of rugby and the Harlequins.
So, rugby has the power to change lives! The last year has been tough on all of us, but Youth Mental Health Day allows us to reflect on how we can strive forward in the future. Through the five ways to wellbeing we can improve mental health everywhere, and at The Harlequins Foundation we’re proud to offer that much needed support to the young people in our community.