A Wasps supporter and ex-rugby player who brought himself back from the brink of suicide twice is cycling to every top-flight rugby union stadium to raise awareness of men’s mental health.
Stuart Baker, from Alvechurch, is cycling a total of 750 miles in six days and stopping off at 13 stadiums, including Twickenham – to encourage men to talk about how they are feeling.
It comes as the latest figures released in the Samaritans Suicide Statistic Report 2018 found that 4,382 men committed suicide in the UK in 2017 – the equivalent of 12 a day.
The 39-year-old is starting his challenge at Sale’s AJ Bell Stadium on Tuesday 15 October before finishing at Wasps’ opening Gallagher Premiership clash against London Irish at Ricoh Arena on Sunday 20 October.
“I kept my emotions to myself for the best part of ten years and I’ve been on the bridge before where I’ve come close to ending my own life, so I want to help men to not be in the situation that I found myself in,” said Stuart, who has experienced depression and anxiety for the past 19 years.
“My mental health took a real turn for the worse when I retired from rugby eight years ago which is when I tried to take my own life on two occasions but opening up about my emotions helped.
“My main aim with this cycle ride is to primarily say to men that if they are feeling down and feel like they need help, to go and confide in somebody - you can be a man mountain on the pitch and deliver big hits for 80 minutes but still have your demons off the pitch.
“And what better way to speak to men than through the rugby arena?
“I am taking on the challenge with my friends John, Darren and Paul, and the support we have had so far has been brilliant. We are also being joined by ex-Wasps player Paul Sampson and former Great Britain Paralympian Darren Kenny for part of the adventure.
“I still have bad days but I now live my life by what I call the ‘The Mindset Triangle’ by striking a balance between sleep, healthy eating and exercise – and if this sort of approach can rub off on other people, then the challenge will have been worth it.
“I live in Alvechurch now but I am a Coventry boy and grew up in Croft Pool in Bedworth, so I’m really excited to be finishing the journey on home turf in front of thousands of people.”
Stuart and his travelling contingent will also be raising money for mental health charity Mental Health UK, and Restart Rugby which is a charity providing support to ill and injured rugby players.
And Wasps will be welcoming Stuart and his group to Ricoh Arena where they will take to the pitch at half-time to talk about their challenge, which has also received video messages of support from World Cup winner Will Greenwood and David Flatman.
Verity Brown, Marketing Manager at Wasps, added: “It’s important that individuals who feel like they are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression know where to turn for help, and what Stuart is doing to change this is truly inspirational.
“Our first league home game always generates a brilliant atmosphere and is the perfect platform for Stuart and his group to share their message, and we look forward to welcoming them at the end of what we hope is a successful journey!”
For more information about Stuart’s challenge in October visit www.pedaltheprem.com
Tickets to Wasps’ Premiership Rugby Cup clash against Worcester Warriors this Saturday are available from just £10 for adults and FREE for under 10s. Click here or call 02476 786411 to book your tickets.