Both the study and the evaluation have been funded by the Big Lottery and the OddBalls Foundation.
It has been known for some time that men are less likely to seek professional help to discuss and address mental and emotional health problems and that traditional services are failing to reach out and target men effectively. Recent work across a number of different sports has demonstrated that men will respond to health initiatives when they are seen to be sensitive to their needs and delivered in a setting that is both familiar and is in their ‘comfort zone’.
‘Offload’ consists of a ten week rolling programme of ‘fixtures’ which run concurrently across the three pilot Foundations (Warrington Wolves, Widnes Vikings and Salford Red Devils) and aims to build mental and physical fitness, and ability to deal with problems and cope with change among men aged 16-65 who are at risk of, or suffering from, low-level mental health issues.
For the purpose of evaluation, the men will complete questionnaires and interviews which will identify the impact of ‘Offload’ on the men’s mental, psychological, emotional and social wellbeing and perceived stress. Short questionnaires will also be completed to evaluate the suitability of the content and delivery in order to inform future delivery on a national scale.
Rugby league has a wide reach with a strong base in some of the most deprived areas of the country and has a proven history of work with men. The opportunity for a mental health initiative to be delivered within the rugby league setting offers the opportunity to explore how effective this setting is for such work.