'You are not alone' Featherstone Rovers' men's mental health programme 'Offload' back for a third time

Registered charity, Featherstone Rovers Foundation will be facilitating a third round of ‘Offload’, a men’s mental health programme, after praise from previous participants.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 4:45 pm
An Offload session, in which participants are discussing positive mindset

‘Offload’, a Featherstone based mental health programme, is set to begin again on Wednesday, May 19, to help men in the community tackle their stigmatised issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Men are being invited to meet and talk with current and former professional rugby players, including Featherstone Rovers’ Tom Holmes, to learn techniques that rugby league clubs use to manage the mental and physical fitness of players.

Over the course of the 10-weeks, the programme promises to help participants develop coping strategies to challenge difficult situations and learn how to recognise when people close to them may need their support.

Featherstone Rovers players promote Offload by wearing their t-shirt

Paul March, director of the Featherstone project, said: “Often we find the hardest thing is taking that first step through the door into the group and admitting you could have a problem.

“The sessions are really relaxed, even if you don’t feel like talking, sometimes it’s beneficial to listen to other people and perhaps relate to what they’re going through.

“The last two cohorts of people who’ve done the Offload project still keep in touch, and if one of them’s having a bad day, the rest of the cohort rally around them to help get them through it.

“The word ‘Offload’ is so powerful, but it’s true; offloading your problems can help massively, whether it’s in a group environment or not.

Pictured above: Tom Holmes

“It’s such a big challenge to talk about your own problems, but we’ve had really good feedback from the programme, and we try to use that feedback to help the wider community.”

Funded by Rugby League Cares and Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the programme is being facilitated at The Millenium Stadium in Featherstone, in partnership with The Featherstone Rovers Foundation.

The 10-week-project covers a different aspect of mental health improvement each week, including stress and coping, challenging negative thinking, managing emotions, building resilience and positive influences.

Terry Gough, previous Offload participant, said: “When I decided to give Offload a try, I thought I’d go see what it's like and if I could change some of my own thinking.

“And it actually changed my thoughts on a lot of things in my life, just by listening to the other lads and how they coped with their situations.

“It’s helped me along with so many people, I’ve been able to notice signs in other people that might need help, and I’ve been able to point them in Offload’s direction.

“From the project I’ve made a group of friends and we can all talk to each other, I don’t know anybody that’s gone to the sessions who hasn’t come out with a plus.

“It might not cure you or fix your problems, but it makes such a difference in how you deal with it by giving you coping strategies.”

The programme came about as a result of Rugby League Cares, which help past players get through their retirement by finding them jobs and helping them cope with sustained, life-long injuries and other challenges presented after their rugby careers.

The players now have the chance to present and share their experiences with men in the community, to let them know they’re not alone in their suffering.

Tom Holmes, scrum-half for Featherstone Rovers, is one of the Offload ambassadors who attends the sessions to share his experiences with mental health issues.

Tom said: “When I was asked to be ambassador for the Offload project, it was a no brainer.

“I’ve spoken out publicly about problems I’ve had with my mental health because I believe that people need to talk more.

“Nobody’s there to judge, everyone’s there for the same reason, to help themselves or someone they care about.

“I think there should be more programmes like Offload, from my experience with it, it’s been so beneficial for so many people - including myself.

“And I’m so pleased to be able to call myself an ambassador.”

To book onto the next Offload project, click here or contact Paul March at [email protected] or text 07884451223