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Irish stars use mental health counselling programme

By Hugh Farrelly

Ireland's professional rugby players have made “significant use” of a counselling programme put in place by their representative body IRUPA to cater for possible mental-health issues.

The spotlight has fallen on depression in professional sport this week with the English Professional Footballers' Association extending the circulation of their booklet on handling depression to 50,000 ex-professionals, following the sudden death of Wales football manager Gary Speed at the weekend.

The English PFA sent out the booklet at the start of the season to their 4,000 members, partly in response to the deaths of Rushden keeper Dale Roberts and German international Robert Enke.

IRUPA initiated their counselling programme last February and a six-month review revealed significant use of its services by their membership.

“We have put a system in place to help players who may be suffering from mental-health issues, which can affect anyone,” said IRUPA player services advisor Hamish Adams.

“We have an employee assistance programme helpline, run by EAP consultants, where anyone can call and talk to a counsellor about any issues they may have.

“Obviously, it's a confidential service and we don't know what issues are talked about but the fact it is being used can only be of benefit.

“The union deserves to be acknowledged for making a commitment to creating further resources for players in the lifestyle area.

“We initiated this system in February and a review after six months showed it has had significant use by the players.

“Professional sport has a lot of highs and a lot of lows, there are not too many professions where you are subjected to the same level of review.”

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