June 18, 2021

Mental health is an issue that is a particular concern for athletes, with a survey suggesting that over a third of athletes are suffering from mental health issues.

It has become a particular problem in rugby league, with some players suffering from depression and anxiety and others from post-traumatic stress disorder.

This has been the focus of a campaign to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing, and has been spearheaded by rugby league player, and former NRL player, Michael McLeod.

He has written a blog post on his personal blog and website about the issue, titled “How to stop thinking about mental illness” (his full post can be found here).

“People who suffer from mental illness and mental health conditions have more than just mental health concerns; they are also at greater risk of developing substance abuse, alcohol misuse and drug addiction, which can negatively affect their career,” Mr McLeod wrote.

“It is difficult to know whether these issues are being overlooked or ignored by professional rugby league and, unfortunately, some players may not receive the support and assistance that they need.”

The report published by the Australian Sports Mental Health Council (ASMHRC) has highlighted that rugby league has a significant mental health issue.

According to the ASMHRC, more than one in five of the players surveyed by the ASHMC reported that they experienced mental health difficulties over the past year.

Mr McLoeys blog post was an attempt to get rugby league players to see that mental health is a serious issue, and to support those players who have suffered mental health challenges.

“I think it’s important for rugby leagueers to know that mental illness is a significant issue, it is very, very common and people need support,” Mr McIntyre told BBC Sport.

“You need to be aware of your surroundings and your environment, and if you are feeling down or feeling like you have been abandoned by your team, that’s something to be concerned about.”

What’s happening in the NRL?

Rugby league is known for its high intensity, physical game, but it is also a game of mental toughness.

There have been multiple instances of players being sent home from games over the years.

In 2014, Queensland’s NRL suspended former Queensland fullback Andrew McCullough for four weeks after he tested positive for the drug N-Acetylcysteine, which has been linked to severe mental health problems.

McCullough had previously been arrested for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and drug possession.

In 2016, former Queensland and NSW fullback Nathan Green was suspended for a fortnight after testing positive for N-acetylcystein and cocaine.

Former Brisbane Lions fullback Matt Gillett tested positive to N-ACETYLOXY and cocaine in 2017.

Both were suspended for the first two weeks of the season, and GilleTT missed the next two games, while Green played for his club until the final game of the year.

There has been a series of other suspensions for mental health reasons, with the most recent coming in March of this year when Queensland’s Trent Merrin was suspended six weeks for failing a mental health check.

“It’s unfortunate that there are people who suffer mental health disorders in our game, and I understand the pressure on a player to get the best possible performance, but the majority of the time, if they are mentally healthy, it’s just going to happen,” said former Brisbane Lions forward, Nathan Cleary.

I think the fact that they are doing that, it makes me a little bit sad, because it makes it hard for me to feel good about my game.”

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