Phil’s #offload story on World Mental Health Day

Phil has been attending Offload at the Warrington Wolves Foundation since its inception in 2017.  Having played Rugby League in the local community for a number of years & being a fan of the Warrington Wolves, he was keen to go behind the scenes of the professional sports club to find out how elite athletes managed their physical and emotional wellbeing.

The professional Rugby team are a powerful influence on the local community and being the heartbeat of the town, act as a catalyst for positive behaviour change.  The involvement of professional coaches, athletes and officials was a big draw for Phil as many of the ‘Head Coaches’ were heroes & role models that he used to watch stood on the terraces.

Phil has recently been diagnosed with bipolar type 2 and Offload has equipped him with the tools needed to deal with the condition on a daily basis.  The last 6 months have been challenging on a personal level with having to work from home but the toolkit of self-care mechanisms that Offload has provided have been invaluable.

During lockdown, Phil realised that Offload had also equipped him with something else.  The camaraderie of his peers alongside their unwavering support and allied to the information provided by Offload, helped him challenge his beliefs that both my mental health and age could prevent him from achieving a lifetime ambition.

Phil has always harboured ambitions to become a graphic designer and was always an avid observer of the profession.  He credits Offload for giving him the confidence to take a vulnerable yet exciting step towards realising his dreams.  The global pandemic gave Phil the headspace and clarity he craved, resulting in him taking the plunge & enrolling onto a 9 month part-time course in his own spare time away from work.

The 5 Ways to Wellbeing framework has been a particularly useful tool for him to move forward in life, because despite being physically active already his appetite to keep learning has grown by attending the weekly Offload sessions where he will often share book recommendations with his team-mates.

For Phil, the graphic design course is much more than learning a new skill;

“I can’t wait for these 3 evenings a week to come around as learning something new and interesting helps keep my mental health in check.  I am focussed on where I want to be at the end of the graphic design course.  I set small goals every week and then reassess and establish new ones when I reach them.  I also ensure I set aside dedicated time for myself to relax and recharge each week as I’ve learnt this is important for myself and also my relationships with others.  My mental fitness is in a good place and thanks to our Head Coaches at Offload I feel I now have the skills to deal with any challenges that I may face moving forward into a new future’

Throughout the last 3 years Phil has also volunteered his time to help the Warrington Wolves Foundation with various fundraising events including running a half marathon.

Offload

Offload is a ground breaking mental health initiative that provides men with an insight into the world of elite sport, exposing them to the strategies used by elite players to cope with the challenges of modern life to develop their own winning mindset.  Gaining widespread recognition from mental health clinicians across the UK, men who currently don’t access traditional healthcare settings are provided with a suite of tools to improve their wellbeing in a safe and supportive setting alongside their peers.

Offload uses Rugby League as a metaphor to normalise mental health issues, tackling stigma and reduce discrimination.  Sporting language is used throughout (e.g. the sessions are called ‘fixtures’, the men are a ‘squad’ and the delivery staff are ‘head coaches’) and involve two 40 minute halves delivered by professional athletes, coaches and match officials with their own lived experiences.  Middle- aged men are encouraged to listen and support other squad members, share their own challenges and their coping methods.

Following the intervention, the beneficiaries are encouraged to ‘give back’ as part of their 5 Ways to Wellbeing action plan.  By linking into the volunteer pathway established by the Warrington Wolves Foundation, men are provided with a comprehensive personal development programme including educational workshops (e.g. MHFA, Connect 5, Dementia Friends).

For more details please message us through our social media pages, email James Howes at  jameshowes@warringtonwolvesfoundation.com or by clicking this link https://www.rugbyleaguecares.org/what-we-do/health-and-wellbeing/offload/