Atlas friends, Richmond Rugby Club, launch mental health service for its members amid coronavirus crisis


It was reported in The Times this week that one of the Atlas family’s closest supporters and friends was leading the way in supporting the rugby community, beyond its player. Community support has always been a priority at the club. In 2019, following unexpected bereavements, the Richmond Heavies Foundation was set up as a charitable foundation to help and protect all at the club as well as to be able to provide help to those immediately impacted by serious illness or bereavement.


The aims of the foundation are to extend lives and prevent avoidable early deaths by facilitating cardiac screening, provide access to confidential mental health services and increase health awareness; and to assist families, especially dependents, affected by sudden death or life-changing injury and encourage community rugby participation.


We are therefore delighted to see the club open up this initiative to its wider membership, as it perfectly falls within its aims above. The club statement read, “current events may be placing an increasing burden on many of our club family,” and Atlas hopes this pioneering move not only helps the many people deeply affected by the current crisis, but also leads the way for other rugby clubs to support their communities in similar ways.


The article in The Times spoke to women’s team back-rower, Libby Povey, who had used the programme while it was already in place for players and staff and highlighted how important the club’s support of mental health and well-being.


“It was exactly what I needed. The club I love so much acknowledges that this is something that is important, and they are going to take care of us. It was like the club was giving you a bit of a hug.”


The Times reports that, ‘The programme offers access to help through two different industry providers: Care First and Thrive. Care First offers help either online or through a counselling helpline. Thrive is accessed through an app’. Atlas are delighted to see such innovative uses of technology making a difference, having already seen Richmond already implement forward-thinking schemes such as a heart screening programme for all players and coaches at the club over the age of fourteen, and sporting bursaries for kids unable to afford the membership fees.


Having already stated in their Foundation aims they want to roll their ideas out to other, less fortunate, clubs who might not have the funding or facilities to support players in this way, this is another initiative which is should prove an easy way for clubs to support their players. As Povey goes on to say,

“This app was a breath of fresh air. It meant that I didn’t need to face that wait for a week for my therapy session anymore; this gave me the chance to log in every day. It really helped.”


The article notes the importance of schemes such as this, having seen mental health issues become more prominent, or more prominently detected, among players in recent years. It says, ‘the Rugby Players Association has a confidential helpline which is accessed by, on average, 10 per cent of its members every year. A recent survey of past players found 62 per cent experienced some kind of mental health problem within two years of retiring.’ The numbers make scary reading, but hopefully more clubs can take on similar roles in their local communities to support more than just their players – something which in difficult times such as these will make a difference beyond what we could imagine.


In the article, The Times observed that the coronavirus crisis had acted as a ‘catalyst’ for what Richmond Chairman, Nick Preston described on the Richmond website as a ‘natural extension’ of the club’s outstanding commitment to mental health and wellbeing.


“This is a great initiative by the Richmond Heavies Foundation and … It’s really pleasing that we will now offer this support to our members."


Atlas would like to thank Richmond and the Richmond Heavies Foundation for their continued support and we would like to praise them for their courageous efforts which we hope will make a big impact on those who are struggling at this difficult time.


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