Scottish Rugby and Breathing Space launch partnership


Scottish Rugby and Breathing Space have launched a partnership to promote positive mental wellbeing. The link was launched at Tennent’s West Regional League Division 1 club, Stewartry, in Dumfries and Galloway, with the support of Scotland Women’s player Liz Musgrove.

Its aim is to encourage awareness of the confidential phoneline Breathing Space provides for anyone who is feeling low and distressed.

“In everyday life, especially as an athlete, you are always going have the low points, luckily with rugby, it’s not just a sport, I strongly believe it’s a community when you play rugby and I think that there is always someone who is going to pick you up and lend an ear when you are feeling low,” said Musgrove.

Tony McLaren, from NHS Scotland who have an over-arching responsibility for Breathing Space, was also on hand to launch the partnership.

He said: “Breathing Space is delighted to be working with Scottish Rugby to promote the benefits of rugby on mental wellbeing and ensure people know where to turn if they’re struggling with their mental health.

“Opening up about how you feel can be a positive first step to feeling better. Rugby is a great platform for encouraging open conversations and promoting sport as a means to help improve mental wellbeing.”

Mental wellbeing is a pertinent subject to the members of Stewartry, who are celebrating their 50thanniversary, as they have experienced two members taking their own lives in the past few years.

Scott Carson was only aged 22 when he took his own life after scoring two tries in his club’s win against Cumbernauld and being named ‘Man of the Match’.John Picken, first XV captain, said: “Because we are a rural club, we like to get the whole community involved where we can, and not taking things too seriously.

The year we lost Scott, we were promoted from West Division 2, we had our final game of the season on Saturday where we lifted the cup and had a full clubhouse, brilliant day, highlight of my rugby career. Then we got the news through the following Tuesday, we all couldn’t understand it, still can’t. It was a horrific time really. To be honest, it just came completely out of the blue.”

No 8 Stephen Hogg added: “Last year I was made redundant in May and was getting married in August. I had to try and juggle the two things along with bills to pay on top of everything else. I’d been in my job for 10 years and to find I didn’t have that anymore made things really hard.

“I was also injured at the time, and after a knee operation I ended up hurting the other one, so I was just watching the team, putting on a bit of weight and it put me in a dark corner. It wasn’t until training got going this year that I was able to get back into things.

“I just kept things to myself and I should have opened up a bit about it looking back, but I’m feeling good now.“I think that an anonymous phoneline is a great thing, one hundred percent a great thing. It’s sometimes hard to open up to people who are close to you because you don’t want to burden them or cause distress and worry.”

Other clubs around the country have also been highlighting the importance of mental wellbeing.

GHA have already been engaging with Breathing Space to provide help and advice for anyone in the club needing assistance with mental well-being. Breathing Space also ran a session with GHA’s senior squads to break-down barriers around mental health.

Stuart Lang, Vice President, GHA said: “Our philosophy at GHA is to provide the best support we can for all our players and those involved in all aspects of our club on and off the pitch. The club is more than the team and we want to promote positive health and wellbeing for all in the GHA family and community.”

Iain Chisholm, Rugby Development Officer at Highland Rugby Club, said: “Nobody is immune to mental health, everyone struggles. So, we want to be proactive in preventing mental health problems by creating an environment where everyone feels they can talk and ask for help. 90% of [a rugby club] has nothing to do with rugby.”

Breathing Space is a free, confidential phone service for anyone in Scotland, experiencing low mood, anxiety or depression. It’s operated by NHS 24 and can be contacted on 0800 838 587. You can find more information at

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