Mental health in sport is very often overlooked. Athletes are often perceived to be thick-skinned, resilient, and independent; looks can be deceiving. The thoughts, feelings, and emotions that navigate in that space between their ears are no different from that of any other person.
We are equally vulnerable.
Fitting in multiple training sessions a week, some of which may be early mornings, combined with a degree puts student athletes in a susceptible position and makes it critical that education of mental health and self-care is prioritised. We are proud that Imperial College Boat Club has greatly increased the awareness of and helped break down the stigma surrounding mental health. Our former Club Captain, Jack Walsh is a founding member of a student-led campaign, Rowing Together for Healthy Minds (RTHM).
RTHM was started in memory of rower René Zamudio, 22, who took his own life in January 2017. He learned to row at Bristol University before continuing to row at Imperial College Boat Club. René started to suffer from depression during his second year at university which had a devastating impact on his relationships, friendships, sport, and studies. He never showed any signs of mental health issues before going to university. He was a private individual and did not share his pain and suffering with his friends; most were unaware of René’s suffering and were devastated by his tragic death.
René’s death was a shock to everyone as his confidence and charisma belied the mental health issues that he was suffering from. As for many similar cases, he was the last person you would think to be suffering from mental health issues. RTHM aims to get the rowing community talking about mental health to address preventable tragedies that occur all too often at universities across the country. RTHM also wants to break down stigmas surrounding mental health illnesses to make it easier for those suffering in silence to reach out for help. With the support of mental health charity Mind, RTHM aspires to raise the profile of mental health in rowing and to inform athletes and coaches about the symptoms of depression and other mental health illnesses, in order to make it easier for someone like René to reach out for help in future.
The RTHM campaign has been active around the country. The campaign has to date:
Partnered with over 135 boat clubs across the UK
Sold over 3500 universal charity tops that clubs and universities have raced in throughout the last year
Supplied resources to all affiliated clubs that outline the club’s commitment to prioritising the mental health of its athletes
Raised over £4000 for partner charity, Mind. They offer information about mental health and provide support to anyone affected by these issues
_Informed and educated on mental health via their social media accounts @rthmuk on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter