Jonny Wilkinson has launched a new mental health campaign together with the health insurer Vitality.
The move comes amid rising concerns about a mental health crisis in rugby, after the recent revelations by former Wasps lock Kearnan Myall in The Guardian, and the ensuing call from the Rugby Players’ Association for the sport to take urgent action to do more to address the issue.
Wilkinson himself spoke to The Guardian last week about his own struggles with anxiety and depression during his playing career.
“It would be fair to say I suffered with it throughout my entire life, from a very, very young age, and I think the reason it’s of such interest to me is I spent my life trying to achieve things in order to try and it keep it at arms length,” Wilkinson said.
He found the problem to be particularly severe during the World Cup. “The way I saw it World Cups were huge because they were the pinnacle. Everything else is important, but they are ridiculously important, everything steps up a level, and therefore your anxiety reaches a peak.”
“Mental health affects everyone, and I hope by talking about my own experiences and exploring one of the most challenging times in my life, I can help people reach out and seek support when they need it,” Wilkinson said.
He is adamant that there needs to be what he calls “a conscious movement” to address the problem. “We need to put support in place and make sure it is available to the players so maybe in 20 years instead of thinking of it as a game full of people that are hiding immense mental suffering, it will be a game where people have transcended that suffering.”