Rugby tackling mental health

“You hear all these things about having to toughen up or man up, but in reality that gets you nowhere.”

Any student will tell you that university can sometimes be difficult. With exams, deadlines, pressures of being away from home and expenses to juggle, it is estimated that one in four students in England are accessing support counselling services.

After suffering a personal tragedy after his first exam at City, now in his third year, Ed Armitage, (LLB Law) and captain of City Men’s Rugby Team tells his story and why you should always seek help.

“My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three to six months to live. Unfortunately it turned out to be one month and he died a couple of days after my first exam at university.

“Up until that moment, I spent most of my first year travelling back and forth between London and Hertfordshire. Every three weeks or so, during my Dads chemotherapy session, I would go home on Tuesday to drive my dad to the hospital that night for a check-up, before driving back to London on Wednesday and going to rugby game in the day.

“I didn’t really tell anyone or address things at the time – I just bottled it all up.”

Turn to your teammates

Although he considered dropping out, Ed decided to seek help from his family and teammates.

“You hear all these things about having to toughen up or man up, but in reality that gets you nowhere. I turned to my teammates and friends for help, as you cannot deal with these things alone.

Ed Armitage, (LLB Law)

“My brother, the rest of my family and I did a lot to help my dad, my mum has been the most amazing throughout this experience and I realised I could always turn to her when things got tough."

Now an advocate for mental health, Ed has set up buddy systems in City Men’s Rugby Team where vice-captains look out for newer or younger members of the team, never leaving them to deal with the pressures of university alone.

Ed’s rugby committee goes further to ensure all students feel included with regular initiatives like the LGBT+ rainbow laces and odd socks campaign for anti-bullying week.

A key campaign being #PlaySportLoveCity, where students were invited to promote the sports they love on social media and around campus while creating an atmosphere where everyone can get involved.

Getting help is toughening up

Ed encourages all students to seek help if they are experiencing mental health issues and says sport can be a huge help.

“I feel like with because rugby is considered a manly sport, I think this is a good place to start with mental health. “If other students see that the rugby team, or the rugby captain, the vice-captain or the rugby committee are addressing mental health then it may encourage other young men or students to address those issues as well.

“I’d urge any student to get involved in a team, even if you have never done it before. It helps so much while at university as it gives you an escape from everything. It is nice to be able to focus on one thing rather than stressing about everything else.

“There is something special about being out on the pitch. Sometimes it is the only time in a week where you can switch off everything else and just concentrate on the game.

“Literally anything can be happening in the world, but in that moment you are just playing rugby.

“We have set up a culture in the team that allows anyone to come forward and ask for help. No one is turned away, no one is laughed at and no one is left behind.

Ed Armitage, (LLB Law)

“I owe the committee and the other students on the rugby team so much as they are a huge part of what we have created in the team. We all want the same goal and I could never have done this work without them.”

City students who feel as if they are experiencing issues with their mental health are strongly encouraged to get in touch with the mental health services and can do so by registering on the student counselling service website.