As part of its continued commitment to player welfare, The Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) has launched a new #LiftTheWeight campaign in which players share their experiences of a range of personal topics, including race, religion, sexuality and identity.
Featuring seven current and former professionals, the campaign aims to promote an inclusive environment within the sport and beyond by increasing awareness, understanding and acceptance of others.
Billy Vunipola (Saracens & England), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs & England), Topsy Ojo (London Irish), Heather Fisher (England & Gloucester-Hartpury), Kelly Brown (former Saracens and Scotland), Sam Stanley (former England 7s), and Mat Gilbert (Hartpury College) have each shared their own personal stories for the campaign.
It’s OK to be different. It’s OK to be yourself.— The RPA (@theRPA) November 18, 2018
Check out our new #LiftTheWeight campaign featuring @bvunipola, @Hfisher2012, @Sladey_10, @samstannerz, @GumbieGilbert, @topsy_ojo & @kellydrbrown here: https://t.co/Kc2oB9D2VX …#LiftTheWeight #ForThePlayers pic.twitter.com/1oAWPLcmOg
This new campaign comes on the back of the initial launch of Lift the Weight in February 2017, which saw nine players share their personal experiences of mental health which prompted a six-fold increase in calls to the RPA’s confidential counselling service, with a record number of players seeking help in 2017.
The RPA Confidential Counselling service is funded exclusively by Restart Rugby, the official charity of the Rugby Players' Association.
As part of the new campaign, the RPA has released an additional seven films featuring each of this year’s ambassadors which are available to view at the #LiftTheWeight hub, alongside other resources, links and advice relating to a range of mental health and wellbeing topics.
“We were blown away by the response to last year’s Lift the Weight campaign and I’ve been hugely encouraged to see how it has opened up conversations around mental health in the game," said RPA Group chief executive Damian Hopley.
"Rugby is the ultimate inclusive sport and we want all players to feel embraced and accepted for who they are, which is why we’ve launched this new campaign. I would like to pay tribute to the seven current and former members who have spoken about a range of personal subjects, from sexuality to religion.
"I am confident that by sharing their experiences, they are helping to nurture and create a truly inclusive environment where people are accepted for who they are. We want players to feel comfortable and confident in their own skin so that they can flourish on and off the field.”