Former Dewsbury Rams and Wakefield Trinity rugby league player aims to help others by sharing how he overcame the horrific injury which ended his career

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A former Wakefield Trinity and Dewsbury Rams player who suffered a horrific injury which put an end to his playing career has been sharing his experiences, with the aim of potentially helping others.

In 2002, while playing at Sharlston Rovers, Jimmy Gittins broke his neck in two places.

Since suffering the injury, he has defied the odds - and medical opinion - by learning to walk, becoming a father and taking part in adventures including a skydive from 15,000 feet.

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Jimmy, from Wakefield, got involved with the charity State of Mind Sport to run “mental fitness sessions” involving ex-professional sportsmen sharing their own personal mental health experiences to help raise awareness, tackle stigma and ultimately prevent suicide.

Jimmy GittinsJimmy Gittins
Jimmy Gittins

He said: “I went through a devastating injury which changed my life.

"For a long time I thought ‘What do I have to offer somebody?’

"But it’s allowed me the opportunity to get out there and talk about my own personal story.

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“When you get feedback to say ‘You’ve made my life better; you’ve given me a different outlook’, it’s incredibly humbling and makes what you do so worthwhile.

“Someone coming to our sessions when they perhaps didn’t realise what they were and getting more out of it than they expected, I think is really powerful.”

State of Mind Sport has just completed a two-year contract, commissioned by West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership’s (WY HCP) Suicide Prevention Programme, to take its “mental fitness sessions” out into businesses across West Yorkshire, particularly targeting those with a high proportion of men.

The project saw a total of 50 sessions delivered across Wakefield, Leeds, Calderdale, Bradford and Kirklees, reaching 1,348 people – two-thirds of which were men.

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Philip Cooper, co-founder of State of Mind Sport, said: “This contract has been great, to take our training across as many places as possible.

“The people delivering the sessions all have lived experience of mental health.

“Through their lived experience and their link to sport, it provided lots of opportunity to talk about anxiety and low mood.

“They can talk about loss and defeat and dealing with anxiety before they go out onto the pitch; there are lots of ways to introduce a whole host of mental health issues using sport analogies.”