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NZ Rugby campaign tackles mental health

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/03/2017

New Zealand Rugby is launching a website and social media campaign targeting mental health in the sport.

The website, www.headfirst.co.nz, will give players, parents, coaches, referees, volunteers and supporters access to information about mental fitness, health and well-being.

NZR education manager Dr Nathan Price says New Zealand has sobering statistics around mental health, with one in five people experiencing mental illness each year and a youth suicide rate that is one of the highest in the OECD.

He says there is a perception that rugby players are tough and asking for help is a sign of weakness, and the campaign is explicitly about breaking that down.

"Asking for help is actually incredibly courageous and very tough," he said.

"We can help to shift perceptions by asking rugby players to talk about these issues and show people who look up to them that mental health and well-being are best dealt with by being open and seeking help."

Among those who feature in the campaign are 133-Test former All Black Keven Mealamu, All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith and Black Ferns Sevens representative Ruby Tui.

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