Earlier this week, Ilan (from the Mr. Perfect Leadership Team) and I headed to an event run by the Rugby Business Network in Sydney on mental health. The RBN are "The world's biggest and most influential network for senior business people with a passion for rugby".
With the high profile news about Dan Vickerman losing his battle earlier this year, it seemed this particular community were searching deep inside for understanding and education.
I hold my hands up and say I am not, and have never been, a big Rugby fan, Union, League or Touch Footy (just ask the team I played one fateful term for). But any event or forum that can propel mental health to the forefront is worth attending.
Conversational and informal in nature, the discussions were pleasantly honest, meaningful and devoid of scripted delivery.
Brendan explained how even now to admit he sought help from a Sports Psychologist while playing the highest level, is difficult. At the time, his teammates knew nothing.
He spoke with clarity and conviction that it is not hard to understand why athletes hide and outright lie about mental health challenges. If you were a star player with a club or on the cusp of breaking into the starting team or even you were fighting for a contract extension, why on earth would you give the Coach any excuse not to pick you?
Having straddled both the professional sports world and the corporate world, Brendan revealed that despite these challenges of opening up, the Rugby world provided something much more powerful.
15 guys in a team, of all different personalities that somehow came together in a common goal, in a patchwork of skills and drive. The result at times, especially in victory, was euphoric. The same could not be said for the corporate world.
Tahnee, having had high profile Clients herself, agreed and suggested that we are ourselves our biggest barrier. Her fascination with Psychology and how the brain worked started early in life and she relayed a confronting story of two twins that had had an abusive, alcoholic father.
One embarked on a successful career, excelling at everything they did. They were asked, why they were able to achieve this? “Because of my father”, they said. Their twin took a parallel path of addiction and pain. They were asked the same question. Their answer? “Because of my father”.
On a personal level however, I took most away from Dan. This is no real surprise considering his work as a mental health advocate with acute “lived experience” and the passions for the path he took.
Dan spoke with frank honesty and clarity about the management of our mental health, “We all have a mental health”, and the sometimes-misleading discussion around mental “health” and mental “illness”, as well as the dangers of self-diagnosis.
His methodical approach to his own mental health was inspiring. Every morning he has a checklist of tasks that he aims to complete to ensure he gives himself the best possible chance of thriving that day. These work alongside other strategies such as medication, strong support networks and consistency, something that hit home in my own desire to enforce my strategies more effectively.
But the words that stuck the most to me personally, and no doubt will apply to most of us, were this, “Don’t always believe what your mind tells you, it’s not always right”.