Tackling mental health with the Warrington Wolves
Using National Lottery funding, Offload offers a slightly different fixtures list to your average Rugby League club. Instead of tackling their opposition, the lads at Offload are working to combat stress, build resilience, manage anger and challenge negative thinking.
Offload has helped more than 600 men by harnessing the power of Rugby League to improve the mental fitness of men of all ages. Mark explains how he worked with Offload to improve his mental health.
"I have struggled with mental health since I was 17, but 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 and I tried to take my own life. 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."
Stepping into the stadium
Through Offload, men get the opportunity to go behind the scenes of their favourite clubs and listen to professional players talk about the challenges they've faced, breaking down stigmas and enabling men to ‘offload’ about the problems they face in their own lives. Mark explains:
"Although I live in Warrington, I'm a St Helens lad born and bred, 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."
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!"
The fixtures list
Offload is made up of 10 'fixtures', each focusing on topics that local men say they struggle with, including building resilience, managing anger, tackling stress and challenging negative thinking. Fixtures take place weekly and follow the format of a game of Rugby League; 80 minutes, split into two halves. Mark explains what these fixtures have done for him:
"I spoke to my doctor about Offload and he's impressed by the difference it's made to me. I am old school, I kept things to myself and wasn't a nice person to be around. Offload has smashed down [my] barriers. Things are now easier at home because I don't get wound up as easily."
They'll never get a Warrington shirt on the back of this St Helens lad!
"I have made some great friends through Offload, friends who will stay with me for life. I feel like a better person 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!"
Offload is funded by The National Lottery and run by Rugby League Cares in partnership with State of Mind and three Super League Clubs: Warrington Wolves, Widnes Vikings and Salford Red Devils.
12th September 2018