Former Exeter Chiefs player promotes positive mental health

PUBLISHED: 11:41 17 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:41 17 December 2019

Former Exeter Chiefs player Matt Jess gave a talk at Raleigh Park on the subject of mental health and rugby. There was a packed room to hear him speak. Picture: ANNA MARIA MAZZIERI

Former Exeter Chiefs player Matt Jess gave a talk at Raleigh Park on the subject of mental health and rugby. There was a packed room to hear him speak. Picture: ANNA MARIA MAZZIERI

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The stigma behind mental health is finally being challenged, especially male mental health which has often been overlooked. As a club, Withycombe wants to create a space for their male players to feel supported and free in expressing their emotions….

Former Exeter Chiefs player Matt Jess speaking with Withycombe RFC members during hsi visit to the club to give a talk about mental health and rugby. Picture: ANNA MARIA MAZZIERIFormer Exeter Chiefs player Matt Jess speaking with Withycombe RFC members during hsi visit to the club to give a talk about mental health and rugby. Picture: ANNA MARIA MAZZIERI

In light of this Ex-Exeter Chiefs player, Matt Jess had offered to have a chat with our male players about his life, his sporting successes but also about his mental health struggles to show it is ok to express those feelings and it is ok to talk about them but above all that behind a smile or great achievements there can be struggles.

It wasn't a straight progression to Premiership for Matt though, as injuries created setbacks in his career until 2008 when the Chiefs signed him and believed in his potential. This potential grew and his talent for the game shone through, earning him 103 appearances for Exeter, and scoring 103pts in his career with the club. Matt was part of the team that won the Aviva Premiership title in 2017.

That high level performance environment which comes with great highs also comes with lows and at the end of the season 2011/2012 when he had played every second of every game, he went away for a well-deserved rest his and mother suddenly died. This tragic event really affected his mental health.

The emotions were clear on Matt's face especially when recalling the day of his mother passing when Matt eyes filled with tears and his voice was trembling.

He asked for help and learned strategies to improve his mental health. He worked with Simple common sense strategies to create a positive mindset like:

· Positive Self Talk as it rewires the brain to follow a more positive thought patterns

· Spend time to do things that makes you happy, simply do things you enjoy

Matt ended his talk with a big message for everyone to take home: "check in" your mates, ask how they are and just send a message. Although they may still say they are fine they will know someone is there.

A huge thank you to Matt for coming along and speaking to us and for providing an excellent, thought-provoking evening with plenty of things to take away and think about.

For more advice, or if you would like to speak to someone regarding men's mental health, please get in contact with CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) on 0800 58 58 58 who will be happy to help. They are open 5pm-Midnight, 365 days a year.

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