RPA rolls out Mental Health First Aid Training (MHFA) across the Gallagher Premiership

The Rugby Players Association (RPA) is pleased to announce the release of the Mental Health First Aid Training course (MHFA), which will be available to all Gallagher Premiership clubs and Elite England Player squads. 

The aim of delivering the licensed and accredited course is to raise mental health awareness, reduce stigma around mental health and enhance a positive support culture in each Premiership/ England squad.

Whilst the RPA already runs various initiatives in the Mental Health space including member access to 24/7 confidential counselling, the ‘Lift the Weight’ campaign, one to one access to Development Managers and regular wellbeing webinars; embedding this dedicated First Aid training into each club through a mix of players and staff will provide greater informed understanding and encouragement to talk more freely about mental health and supporting others.

The two-day course, led by MHFA instructor Ben Morris, encompasses four mains sections: 

  1. The concept and impact of Mental Health and Depression.
  2. Suicide and substance misuse.
  3. Anxiety disorders; self-harm; eating disorders and personality disorders.
  4. Psychosis and building a mentally healthy community.

With more than 20 years experience in the human resources sector, Morris brings with him a wealth of knowledge. Currently Head of Employee Relations at an international law firm, he has already trained more than 160 mental health first aiders.

 Ben Morris, MHFA Course Instructor, said: 

"Rugby players are human, which means they experience the full range of the human condition. Therefore sadly they will experience mental health issues, good and bad. From the pressure to perform, to letting down your teammates, and family responsibilities - all those roles that a rugby player holds puts a lot of pressure on their mental wellbeing. Players are happy to go to a physio or doctor for a physical injury - our hope is that this course will create pathways for rugby players to seek out help, whether that be a player opening up to a peer or just as helpful, a teammate asking how they are. We want that conversation to be the starting point of finding the help you need, whether that be through the RPA or the club's doctor."

RPA Player Welfare Director, Rich Bryan, said: “At a time when mental wellbeing has never been more important in professional rugby, we’re delighted to assist RPA members, Premiership clubs and the RFU by providing a further addition to their mental wellbeing toolbox. The feedback from players and club staff who have taken the course so far is really pleasing and we look forward to rolling the programme out further during the course of this season. Thank you to Ben Morris for delivering a great initiative for us.”

Prior to lockdown the RPA sat down with Jake Woolmore (Bristol Bears) to discuss his experience of the course.

Watch the full video HERE

With four clubs and more than 60 participants having now successfully taken part in the two-day MHFA course including Bristol Bears, Bath, Gloucester and Sale Sharks, we heard from some of the players on their experience of the training. 

Player Testimonials 

Lewis Ludlow - Gloucester Rugby, Club Captain

“I thought the course was really helpful especially in my position as club captain, you always have different people taking to you about many different things. I feel this course has given me not only the knowledge and understanding but the confidence to identify and deal with situations when and if they arise! Whether it’s team mate, friend or family member I feel I have the ability now to help them or send them down the right avenue, for them to get the help they need.”

Jake Cooper-Woolley, Sale Sharks
“The Mental Health First Aid course delivered by Ben Morris on behalf of mental health England was fantastic. Ben delivered the material in a way which encouraged the group to really engage with one another and discuss mental health in a way which was unfamiliar for a lot of us. I personally gained a better understanding of how to engage with colleagues and friends and I am sure anyone who studies for the certificate will find it a very useful experience.”

Jake Woolmore, Bristol Bears

For me, the course helped my thought process around mental health. I was a bit on the fence about taking part and wasn't sure If I was going to be any use to anyone. But as you go through it you realise you don't have to be a super hero to help someone. It is very basic things, but learning how to do them in an effect and understanding way."

Jake Polledri, Gloucester Rugby

“The Mental Health First Aid course was extremely informative, interactive and engaging. I learnt a lot about a subject I knew little about. Massively enjoyed it and will help with engaging players and friends.”
For more information on Mental Health First Aid please contact your Development Manager.



Penny Maltby-Payne -  RPA Head of Communications