STATE OF MIND SPORT – THE GENESIS Malcolm Rae OBE (far right) was one of the co-founders of State of Mind Sport and became our first ever Chair of Trustees
Malcolm reflected on how it all began and why he became involved:
Malcolm receiving the Burdett Trust’s Mens Health Award in 2018
My wife Joyce’s reaction to Terry Newton’s tragic death was, “You should do something to prevent similar tragedies”. We are both Wigan Warriors season ticket holders and Joyce was a particular fan of Terry. I wrote to the two rugby league papers highlighting that men and in particular young men were at a higher risk of suicide than the general population. This was with the intention of promoting greater awareness and understanding of mental health problems and encouraging more enlightened attitudes and approaches to tackling stigma, which is often associated with weakness and frequently prevents individuals, who may be struggling with stress and depression from seeking help or support. I also commented that it would be a tribute to Terry’s life in Rugby League if clubs could forge links with mental health Trusts and voluntary organisations in preventing further tragedies in local communities.
Malcolm leading the presentation at the All Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group below
Ernie Benbow, who was similarly moved had also written an article stating that lessons should be learnt, and urging more informed, fresh and sensitive well being policies and practice within the game in both preventing and responding to players and especially former players, who might be experiencing tough times. Ernie’s perspective was informed by his role and expertise in the NHS, as a Senior Human Resource Manager and this corresponded with my own experience as a Senior Mental Health Nurse and policy maker.
Phil Cooper and Carol Ede contacted both Ernie and myself and convened a meeting to explore how our respective professional expertise, networks and enthusiasm for both mental health and the game of rugby league could be combined. We were joined by Terry Newton’s former team mate Brian Carney.
We considered how best to make an impact on raising awareness of mental fitness and encouraging clubs to develop more appropriate approaches in supporting players during their career and when they retired. We also discussed how to affirm the message of hope and the availability of local support for individuals and their families, who may be experiencing distress.
Our initial thoughts were towards a major conference with national and well known speakers from both within Rugby League and other sports, along with key health and voluntary service leaders. This to be aimed at influencing public awareness and best organisational practice. Simon Howes, a men’s health advisor from CALM and Owen Cotterell, a film producer, added their specific expertise.
I recall Terry O’Connor joining the group and both he and Brian opened doors for us both in the game and in the media. They helped in acquiring a commitment from the RFL, the Clubs and importantly, involvement from key players, who were generous with their time and who engaged with the initiative by taking part in films and wearing State of Mind T Shirts. This gave significant credibility and momentum in raising the profile of State of Mind.