Tackle Your Feelings: Experience of Help-Seeking for Mental Well-Being Concerns in Professional Rugby Union Players

in Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology

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Deirdre LyonsCollege of Health, Psychology and Social Care, University of Derby, Derby, United Kingdom
Rugby Players Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

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Philip ClarkeCollege of Health, Psychology and Social Care, University of Derby, Derby, United Kingdom

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Robert C. DempseyDepartment of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Education, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom

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Limited research into professional rugby union players’ experiences of seeking formal support for their mental health exists, despite comparable rates of mental health issues among elite rugby players with the general population. This qualitative study explored professional players’ actual experiences of accessing Rugby Players Ireland’s mental well-being service, via separate focus group discussions with professional players (n = 5) and player development managers (n = 4) who refer players into the service. An inductive reflexive thematic analysis identified three themes detailing players’ (a) journey to disclosure of their mental health difficulties, (b) their expectations and engagement with the well-being service, and (c) participants’ reflections on mental health experiences in a high-performance environment. Embedding mental health as a key component of player development in high-performance environments, improving mental health literacy, normalizing mental health experiences, and encouraging help-seeking would help promote player well-being and support holistic development alongside sporting performance.

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