THERE is nothing quite like a derby match to whet the appetite after the festive break and GHA’s first XV squad members are looking forward to the trip to Balgray to take on Glasgow Hawks on Saturday.
And while the Braidholm men’s top team squad are a tight unit on the pitch they also have close bonds with each other and wider club members off it. That is why the club’s link up with Breathing Space – a free and confidential phone service for anyone in Scotland over the age of 16 experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety – is very important to those involved at GHA, explains club vice-president Stuart Lang.
“Yes, results for all teams throughout the club are important, but there is so much more to what our rugby club is all about,” he said. “A rugby club brings people from different backgrounds and different ages together in a unique community and at GHA we want to help everyone as much as we can in their lives beyond just simply training sessions and matches.
“In the days when I played, mental health was not discussed very much in a changing room environment or in wider society, but we have seen in recent years a lot more high profile sporting figures coming forward and talking about various issues surrounding it.
“I think that has led the younger generation now to learn to talk about things a bit more and open up a bit more if they are having struggles, but it can still feel lonely and be tough to take that first step.
“We thought we’d like to provide an opportunity to our players to help in such situations, so we have people within the club who they can talk to about their wellbeing should it be required in the first instance, and then they can go on and speak to the team at Breathing Space should they need to.”
Tony McLaren from Breathing Space has worked with a number of sporting organisations over the years and when he headed along to Braidholm last August for a first meeting with the GHA playing group Lang was impressed by what he saw and heard.
“Having been involved with sports clubs over the years, Tony really knew what to say to the players and how to engage them. It wasn’t just a case of me or another committee member standing up in front of them and telling them that we are here for them in all aspects of their lives, it was Tony explaining how different people can be feeling at different times and the practical ways to combat that.
“The feedback since that meeting has been great and you get a real sense that the players, as well as the coaches and others involved here, are really looking out for each other and want to support each other when it comes to things away from rugby.”
Making a difference
Breathing Space is funded by the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Unit and delivered by NHS24. The service was launched in 2002 and became a national phone-line in 2004, complementing the work of other phone-lines and agencies which are endeavouring to reduce suicide rates in Scotland. Their advisors come from a range of mental health, counselling and social work backgrounds.
On February 1st, ‘Breathing Space Day’ will highlight the help the team can give. “We take around 8,000 calls a month from people around Scotland suffering distress in their lives,” said McLaren. “I go into workplaces to speak to their staff about mental health and wellbeing and we have also forged some strong link-ups with football and netball clubs, for example we have been on the Motherwell FC and Glasgow City FC jerseys.
“Recently, I have been speaking to a few more people in rugby circles and GHA were keen to find out more about the service which was great.
“The team and club environment can be one of the most special things in life with the camaraderie and everything that goes with it, but it can also be a lonely environment if you are not feeling yourself or you feel you have no one there to talk to. We know that suicide rates amongst men are particularly high at the moment and we are trying to do our bit to help.
“All of the people at GHA have been very enthusiastic about working with us and that has now led to us speaking to a number of other clubs to see how we can help them, which is great.
“The rugby community seems to be a great social network and we want coaches, players and others involved to be more educated in terms of the signs of mental health issues so that they can talk to a club-mate who they feel might be struggling and help them on the road to better times.”
The Breathing Space logo is now on the GHA under-18 team’s shirts while there are information banners present on all club match-days and the two organisations look forward to working together going forward.
- For more information on Breathing Space, visit www.breathingspace.scot
- Glasgow Hawks take on GHA in the Tennent’s Premiership at Balgray at 2pm on Saturday