Today on World Mental Health Day, Time to Change Wales advocate Ben Jeffreys, shares his story about how he would have ended his life if it wasn’t for Pontypool RFC.
Ben Jeffreys, 30, from Newport suffers from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) which was caused by emetophobia since early childhood. Emetophobia is a phobia that causes intense anxiety to vomiting. The thought of vomiting or being around sick people would trigger his OCD by washing his hands excessively for hours with boiling hot water, and brushing his teeth up to thirty times a day, and on average, gargling two bottles of mouthwash a day. He simply couldn’t get away from the sink – he had to ‘protect’ himself from becoming ill.
Ben’s OCD has led to depression and having suicidal thoughts. He felt trapped by the constant thought of becoming ill, which made performing everyday tasks almost impossible for him, until he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Pontypool RFC which changed his life and gave him something meaningful to focus on.
“My father’s childhood rugby club, Pontypool RFC, faced liquidation so he made the decision to pay off all outstanding debts and take full control of the club. Unfortunately, in the weeks following his decision, he suffered a stroke which left him unable to work. After volunteering for several months to get the club back up and running, I was appointed Chief Executive Officer. I felt totally undeserving of the role at the time, particularly when I was still coming to terms with my father’s ill health, as well as battling with my own mental health. Nonetheless, I believe it came at the right time. I needed a sense of purpose and an opportunity to grow as a person. In short, Pontypool RFC saved my life.
“Fortunately, my OCD and depression are now under control, however I still attend regular therapy sessions as there is still progress to be made, and I now know that there are so many people who care about the mental well-being of others thus asking for help should be nothing to be ashamed of whatsoever.
Rugby has the reputation of being a hard game that requires you to be tough and uncompromising – both on and off the field. This has created a barrier that discourages people from showing their vulnerabilities and this is something we have to change over time. Within the next few months, Pontypool RFC will be signing the Time to Change Wales Employer Pledge to end mental health stigma and discrimination within the workplace. It is important to let colleagues, players and fans know that they have a committed senior management team who are dedicated to mental well-being, especially within sport.”
Each year in Wales, between 300 and 350 people die by suicide – this is almost three times the number killed in road accidents. Suicide is also the biggest killer for men under 50 in the UK and globally, it is responsible for 800,000 deaths which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds.
Preventing suicide can involve speaking out about your mental health and seeking help if you are having suicidal thoughts, and Time to Change Wales’ role is to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding the topic of mental health.
Lowri Wyn Jones, Time to Change Wales Programme Manager said:
“Our aim is to get as many people to feel comfortable enough to talk about their mental health by opening up to friends, family and colleagues so that we avoid crisis situations such as contemplating suicide. World Mental Health Day is about opening a dialog on self-care, prevention and raising awareness of mental health problems. We need to take far more collective responsibility for managing our own mental health and wellbeing by taking small steps such as checking in on someone, or providing a listening ear which can be a lifeline for someone who is experiencing difficulties.”