A 40-strong audience united at Ricoh Arena on Blue Monday to hear an ex-Wasps player give an inspirational talk about how he overcame his demons whilst battling serious injury.
Alex Rieder – who had to retire from rugby union in December 2019 because of a serious knee injury - gave a combined 90-minute talk and question-and-answer session where he laid bare some of his personal struggles along with tips of what others can do to overcome challenging times of their own.
Those in attendance included ex-Armed Forces veterans from military charity SSAFA, volunteers from the Samaritans and mental health campaign It Takes Balls to Talk, the NHS, as well as rugby mental health charity LooseHeadz.
Coventry kid and former professional rugby union player Jack Cosgrove, 25, was also in the audience as he adjusts to life as a former professional rugby player after having to retire in December 2019 due to sustaining a serious eye injury in training.
The talk was held to mark Blue Monday - a concept devised by psychologist Cliff Arnall, who, by taking into account a range of circumstances, such as the first credit card bill of the year after Christmas, failed New Year resolutions and the cold, dark weather, identified the third Monday of January as a time when people are most likely to feel in a low mood.
Alex said: “I was amazed by the turnout and response to the session – it really made sharing my own story worthwhile, and hopefully by this, it will go on to inspire others in the room to either seek help or think about reaching out to friends or family that they haven’t spoken to in a while.
“Nursing two serious injuries to my shoulder and knee sent me into a bout of depression and I spent a good five months pushing the ones I loved away from me, and would regularly decline social opportunities.
“It wasn’t until I was on a social outing with some of my Wasps team mates that I broke down and opened up to a few them about how I was feeling for it to really hit home that I needed to start talking.
“I was also lucky enough to have friends and family who persisted with me and were patient – which looking back now – is exactly what people need to be doing if they think a loved one is acting distant or out of character.
“Like I said in the session to the group, it can only take once incident to spark off a series of other negative outlooks or events, which is why, with the help of others, setting and achieving small goals is a good place to start with rebuilding a positive mindset.
“It’s this setting of short-term goals that has ultimately helped me with my retirement, too.
“It was really encouraging to hear from various Armed Forces veterans and the general public who had overcome their own struggles, and if we all shout loud with one voice through events such as this that it’s ok to talk and confide in someone, then hopefully we can go on to save more lives in the future.
“I’m more than happy to visit various community groups to share my story and give a talk around mental health, so please do get in touch.”