New Zealand Rugby Launches Headfirst – a Mental Fitness Campaign


Whilst watching the rugby last weekend (go Hurricanes!), we were thrilled to see a pre-match advertisement for New Zealand mental health initiative, Headfirst.

Pioneered by New Zealand Rugby, Headfirst has been created to support the wellbeing of the rugby community – much in the same way that CheckPoint does for gamers.

The site likens your psychological health to “mental fitness”, extending on a concept that rugby fans will inherently understand and appreciate. They then use that analogy to explore the signs of when you might be suffering, and introduce simple, actionable tips on how to improve your wellbeing.



There are two self-assessment quizzes, one for depression and another for anxiety, as well as heaps of information on common struggles – stress, anger, and travel for example. There’s also educational resources for the more stigmatised issues we face in our mental fitness – like suicide, self harm and addiction. Each page is accompanied by strategies for dealing with the issue.

Easily my favourite section is the videos. I cannot overstate how powerful it is to see someone who is influential and respected discuss a stigmatised issue like mental health. There is solid evidence that this sort of advocacy promotes help-seeking behaviour, encourages social support, and breaks down barriers to reaching vulnerable members of the community.



Sports Personalities Leading the Way

These inspiring athletes live to incredibly high standards – they are expected to be at the top of their game, and represent the hopes of their fans. They train hard and endure unbelievable amounts of stress. On top of that, there’s a culture of stoicism in sport – particularly for the men, who suffer incredible burden of mental illness and have a suicide rate up to 7 times higher than women. These factors make it difficult to speak up, or to even acknowledge there’s something amiss in the first place. I have an exceptional amount of respect for their courage and selflessness in coming forward so honestly.


In the video section you’ll find personal accounts from referees, coaches, and of course players – the Chiefs, Sunwolves, Black Fern Sevens and even the All Blacks have gotten involved. Together they represent a range of cultural identities, helping the message to penetrate to all New Zealanders.  

As a side note, we recently bought front row seats to see the All Blacks play France and I’m very excited.