Today former London Irish and Northampton Saints centre, Tom Stephenson, begins his epic #TryFor5 challenge in aid of Restart to raise awareness and funds for players, like him, that are in need mental health support.
Tom retired from the professional game at the age of 26 and coming to terms with early retirement due to injury, led to mental health issues resurfacing that he hadn't tackled during his career.
Transitioning out of the game can take its toll emotionally on players and for Tom it was no different:
"During my career as a professional rugby player I experienced many highs but also many lows due to injuries. The low times impacted me more than I ever knew at the time, and I spiraled into depression and drinking heavily in order to cope with my injuries."
"I never addressed the depression and alcoholism at the time so when I ended up retiring and feeling unprepared for life after rugby, I again spiraled into a scary and dark place."
Tom reached a critical point and certain events led him to seek professional support for his mental health and he started confiding in his friends and family about how things really were.
Tom continued: "I thought by saying I wasn’t ok or by saying I was struggling, and asking for help, I would be perceived as weak. So I did what most men do, and bottled it up and thought it would all go away."
"Looking back, I believe I did this mainly because I didn't fully understand the consequences of not talking about your problems and the real impact this can have on your mental health."
Now, Tom is focused on using his voice by sharing his story to raise awareness and funds to support those who feel like they can't open up about the challenges that life has thrown their way.
Tom is embarking on a physical challenge to complete five marathons in five days, starting off at Franklin's Gardens before finishing at the Home of English Rugby, Twickenham Stadium, on the 16th May.
Aiming to raise £20,000 to support Restart and the vital, and often lifesaving, work we do to support players like Tom every season.
On his upcoming fundraising challenge, Tom said: "Us players are fortunate to have a charity like Restart who run a full time counselling service for male and female rugby players who are in need of it. Like so many charities over the last 12 months, Restart's income has taken a huge hit, and for these reasons I want to give back to this fantastic charity so they can continue their great work supporting our rugby community!"
To sponsor Tom, please visit his JustGiving page here.
GOOD LUCK TOM AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!