Lifestyle

Student who tried to take own life saved by rugby club who tackle male mental health

Incredible rugby club are smashing stigma for men suffering in silence.

Leaving home and moving into accommodation with strangers can be overwhelming, let alone when you don’t even want to go to university in the first place.

That was the reality for one lad, who only went to study as he got an acceptance letter.

However, when Jack Middlemore took a leap of faith with further education, he struggled to manage his mental health and spiralled towards breaking point.

Speaking about his experiences, Jack explained: “For me, my mental health was as its worst when I was at university. I didn’t want to go; I only went because I got a place there.

“I made some truly incredible friends, but from day one, I felt so alone, so lost.

“It was the start of the tipping point as I came home from uni for the summer, and on my first day back, dad sits me down and says, ‘Look, your mum and I are getting divorced.’”

Jack said he believed the demise of their marriage was his fault, and he spent the following months convincing himself that he was to blame for the family falling apart.

After the holidays, Jack went back to uni although he soon turned to drugs as a coping mechanism which triggered the control over his life to unravel.

Jack continued: “I wasn’t happy, I didn’t feel good enough, I hated myself, I was failing my degree, I didn’t feel I deserved to do well. At the end of my second year, I bombed.”

The following summer, Jack returned home again to discover his estranged parents still living under the same roof but in different bedrooms and having different dinnertimes.

The toxic environment sent Jack further into a depression and when he went back to uni to redo his second year, he continued taking drugs before one pivotal night when he got so wasted he called his mother to say goodbye and attempted suicide.

Jack spent three days in hospital on an IV drip, before his best friend of 12 years came to bring him home to give him some much-needed respite from the demons in his head.

But Jack failed to address his issues at the time, and while he temporarily got clean from drink and drugs, he soon turned to them again and had a second mental breakdown.

It was only because he posted a cry for help on Snapchat, that his best friend came to collect him again and brought him home to conquer the problems once and for all.

Coincidentally, around this time, another friend introduced Jack to rugby and despite having only ever played it briefly at school before, he fell in love with the game.

Jack explained: “Between rugby and my therapist, they’ve genuinely saved my life. Talking feels shit, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

“It’s been three years since I tried to kill myself and I honestly feel it’s the happiest I’ve even been in my life.”

Not only are the Dodger 7s RUFC responsible for bringing Jack back from the brink, they also help other men struggling with their mental health by offering support.

Now, the club have teamed up with mental health advocates LooseHeadz for their #TackleTheStigma campaign, for a seven-part documentary series named Blindside.

Each episode focuses on one rugby player as they share open and honest accounts about their battles with depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide attempts.

Speaking about the series, Rob Shotton from LooseHeadz – a rugby apparel brand that uses all profits to fund mental health initiatives – said: “One of the main reasons we started the company was to encourage people to open up about their mental health and be able to have those difficult conversations with friends and family members.

“Outdated stereotypes that refer to mental illness as a ‘weakness’, mean that unfortunately, many people still feel uncomfortable talking about mental health. It often takes a trigger, such as a suicide attempt, before someone seeks help.

“By encouraging people to talk about mental health, they are more likely to seek help before the situation escalates to that level.”

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released in September shows that the suicide rate for men in England and Wales in 2019 was the highest for two decades.

To watch Blindside, check out the Dodger 7s and LooseHeadz social media channels.

For confidential advice, visit the Samaritans.

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