Rugby star shares battle with mental ill health ahead of International Men's Day

A former RL star has revealed how speaking to those closest to him helped as he struggled with his mental health.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 12th November 2021, 12:54 pm

Jamie Acton, ex-Leigh Centurions prop and Super League player, faced seriously dark days and even felt suicidal after suffering a career-ending neck injury.

The 29-year-old has now revealed how he coped ahead of International Men’s Day on Friday, November 19, which will shine a spotlight on men’s health and specifically mental health.

Suicide has become the biggest killer of young people in the UK, with men being three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

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Jamie Acton

Jamie said: “After my neck surgery, playing rugby was no longer an option for me. That really knocked me for six. I was depressed and at times felt suicidal – my life lacked focus for the first time and as an athlete that was a very tough place to be.

“To many, my appearance and size translates to strength and it’s tough for people to understand that I may be battling some serious mental health issues. And that goes for many men, we’re told to be strong, carry on, don’t cry – and in the rugby world this is even more true. As men, we have to learn how to identify those feelings and emotions and understand how to open up and share how we feel.

“I relied on my network to get me through those really dark days as well as regular exercise, and I realised that my story could potentially help others. It really inspired me to do something to support other men facing similar mental health battles.

“Since opening up about my story with male friends and former colleagues, I’ve found them all very open and receptive - often going on to share their own stories. What I’ve realised is that for a lot of men they struggle to identify their own battles and don’t have the tools to do that.”

One thing that has helped Jamie is exercise and he launched a fitness app focused on improving mental well-being. Called Banish - Demons Exercised, it asks users to track how they feel before and after working out, hopefully showing how exercise helps mentally as well as physically.

Five per cent of subscription revenue goes to charity CALM, which works to prevent suicide.

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