ST HELENS back rower Jon Wilkin believes that achieving balance in life is crucial to a rugby league player’s mental health.
While players need to be obsessive to reach the top level of the game, that obsession can have negative consequences for a person’s state of mind.
Very few people can handle a state of constant obsession with one thing, so the Saints man advises finding activities away from the game, where a player can balance up their mind again.
“I think in any walk of life, a balance is right,” he told State of Mind. “Too much of anything in your life is not great.
“Rugby is quite an intense lifestyle, it’s a performance-based lifestyle, so that brings its own pressures, with constant scrutiny and those things, which are part of the job, but are the part of the job that many people maybe aren’t as comfortable with.
“So having balance and something away from that is crucial.
“But it’s hard, because some of the greatest examples in sport of successful people completely immerse themselves in their profession.
“It takes that to become the best you can be to be elite, that’s what it takes.
“But the conflict is that for maybe half a percent of the professional population is that actually liveable.
“So for the other 99.5 percent of the guys who are consuming their lives with this one thing, it’s really an unrealistic aim if you think you’re going to reach that elite top of the game.
“Being realistic throughout your career is crucial, having balance and having things to stimulate you away from rugby is crucial.
“At the end of the day, one of the biggest considerations is that everyone having a rugby career is expected to be happy doing it.
“But there’s a lot of guys who would maybe be happier doing something else. There’s a lot of pressure on those guys just to keep playing.
“When you have other interests, it gives you other options, and it gives you an opportunity to go away and do something else, which is why it’s important.”
Communicating with those who are close to you is also something which players should make every effort to do, according to Wilkin.
“Your openness, and your ability to communicate with your friends and family is your first port of call, with any issue you have,” he added. “In my experience, when people, especially rugby players, have an issue, when they struggle, it’s because communication breaks down.
“Away from that, you have your team-mates, as well as the wider game itself. Rugby league as a sport is very good at supporting people who are struggling.
“In some ways, we’re very privileged to be in that position.”
Self-knowledge is the key to making sure that issues do not explode into more serious problems, according to the Saints man.
“Understand yourself, and spot the warning signs within yourself,” he advises. “If you have an issue then talk about it – to your family, your friends – it doesn’t have to be to your team-mates.
“But talk about. The communication between people in your life is crucial.”
State of Mind takes over Super League in Round 25 for the games on the weekend of August 28-31. Look out for volunteers providing information on mental health at all grounds across the weekend.