PRESS RELEASE: Toby Kenneally announced as new rugby ambassador

Toby KenneallyDorset Mind are pleased to announce a new ambassador – Bournemouth Rugby Club’s linchpin forward Toby Keneally. This timely announcement comes towards the end of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, during which the charity has been working hard to reduce the stigma around mental health.

Toby will complete an  induction and training with Dorset Mind before he takes on this new role within the club. It’s an indication the club recognises the importance of mental health and the impact it has on physical health. They are intrinsically linked. Toby himself suffered a broken ankle at the start of the season, so is fully aware of the potential mental challenges that injury. The impact of the relatively short playing career can also negatively affect the players.

Toby’s experience of mental health

Following a successful operation Toby returned to the Bournemouth Lion’s in January, however, upon his return suffered a ruptured ACL. This put Toby out of the game for a further 12 months. Toby says “suffering physical injury is hard in itself but the mental trauma is very hard to deal with. I have had great support from Bournemouth Rugby and the sponsors and feel that my suffering can be focused to help others deal with mental health in sport and society”.

Bournemouth Rugby Chairman Phil Sinkinson OBE says “I am delighted that Bournemouth Rugby have the opportunity to work with Dorset Mind. Part of our overall strategy aims to get rugby out into the community. That means Bournemouth Rugby can support great causes. Mental health is one of them. I am particularly pleased that Toby Kenneally has been asked by Dorset Mind to be an ambassador. Because he has suffered with mental trauma through injury he can now support others with their mental health. As chairman I am delighted that Bournemouth Rugby are able to lead in this important area of life.  I hope that in so doing other local and regional sports clubs will follow suit”.

A new partnership for Dorset Mind

Dorset Mind CEO Marianne Storey comments “We’re delighted to announce this new partnership with Bournemouth Rugby Club. By designating Toby as a trained Dorset Mind mental health ambassador, we hope this will encourage everyone at the club to be able to talk openly about their mental health.  Just as normally as they would their physical health.

By having a player like Toby as our representative, we believe it will inspire an accepting culture within the club.  It will also raise mental health awareness from an early age. With Toby on board it will help increase our profile and credibility as the leading mental health charity in Dorset.”

The importance of reaching a predominantly male audience

Dr Andrew Mayers, Principal Academic at Bournemouth University and Patron for Dorset Mind said “Encouraging people to talk openly about mental health is challenging enough, but perhaps none more so than with men. The public perception that they should ‘man up’ and not talk about emotions and anxiety simply stigmatises mental health. As a result, men are less likely to seek help, which internalises the problem, escalating it still further. The biggest killer of men under 50 is suicide; the most likely trigger for suicide is poor mental health.

Men are less likely than women to talk about emotions and mental health in support groups. However, one of the ways to encourage men to ‘open up’ is to use the environments they are comfortable in. Sport is one of those. When men see a great role model like Toby talking about these things, they are more likely to talk too.”

To find out more about Bournemouth Rugby Club, follow this link.  And do keep an eye on our social media for updates on Toby’s training and ambassadorship.

We’d also like to thank Lynn Coleman of DAL Strategy, and Dan Willis of Why Digital for introducing us and helping to faciliatate this ambassadorship.