Rowing Together for Healthy Minds

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By Charlotte Greenwood, Deputy Sport Editor and Masters Student, Contemporary Identities

Bristol and Imperial Boat Club on their campaign to raise awareness around mental health in sport.

In recent years, campaigning for the acknowledgment and recognition of Mental Health issues has become central to life at the University of Bristol. The endorsement of support and the increase in available services has been widely felt by the students who study here, providing a platform for those suffering to speak out and find support. Whilst this work has been advantageous for many, the awareness of mental health issues in sport specifically, is perhaps in need of more recognition. University sport, at competitive and social levels, can involve a lifestyle that acts as a coping mechanism or often, in extreme cases, an environment that brings mental health concerns to the forefront – providing various difficulties for students who participate in these societies.

Two clubs have come together after the death of student-rower, René Zamudio in January 2017, who learnt to row as an undergrad at the University of Bristol, before continuing at Imperial College London. Tommy Nicholson, club captain of the University of Bristol Boat Club, and Jack Walsh, club captain of Imperial Boat Club, have worked hard to raise the profile of Mental Health awareness. The pair have established RTHM, Rowing Together for Healthy Minds, with the ambition to acknowledge the importance of athletes’ mental well-being in rowing. RTHM aims to educate athletes and coaches about the symptoms of depression and other disorders, with the hope that this could help someone like René to reach out in the future.

Since starting this project in the summer of 2018, by October they had already established an official partnership with the charity MIND. In the following two months, RTHM managed to become affiliated with over 100 boat clubs across the country – all committing to starting the conversation around mental health in sport. For these clubs to show their support and spread the message, the duo have worked with student-led group Rival Kit to a produce a distinct racing top to be worn by each clubs athletes at rowing events across the country. Since production, over 3,000 tech tops have been sold, producing an impressive £2,000 for the charity in just less than one month.

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We’re looking forward to being one of multiple universities representing @rthm_uk this weekend. There’s still time to order charity tech tops from @rivalkit and all profits will be donated to @mindcharity Find out more about RTHM by heading over to their Instagram or through the Werow article linked in our bio. • Interested in joining UBBC? Get in touch via the “Contact Us” section of our website (uobboatclub.co.uk) or by contacting our captains: Carl Cox, Men’s Captain: cc16569@my.bristol.ac.uk Georgie Townley, Women’s Captain: gt17042@my.bristol.ac.uk • Interested in sponsoring UBBC? Get in touch with our sponsorship officer at sponsorship.ubbc@gmail.com • • • #rowing #rudern #remo #canottagio #tvegroup #wearebristol #yeahbristol #bristoliscoming #bristoluni #mentalhealth #rthmuk #rthm #quintin #mind #quintinhead #supportthecause

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Speaking to co-founder Tommy about the rapid success of the campaign, they initially predicted that only “10-20 university rowing clubs would want to get involved and that we’d sell around 200 tops”. Commenting on the extent of the campaign, Tommy said; “We never expected this response from the rowing community and it is obvious that this is a topic that our community feels very strongly about, especially given the high intensity and commitment required for success.”

With the RTHM outreach beginning with university rowing clubs, the brand has now caught the attention of the British Rowing Institution, along with multiple distinguished Olympic ambassadors of the sport. Their work with British Rowing now aims to incorporate mental health training as part of the national coaching qualification. As well as hoping to establish a well-being ambassador at each of the affiliated clubs, the pair are in plans to design and distribute a helpful poster to their affiliated clubs, providing methods to address athlete’s mental health, that can be displayed in the training setting.

Equally, RTHM’s outreach is set to increase with the current production of a promotional video with a short informative documentary set to be produced in the next few weeks. This footage will involve honest discussions from various athletes, coaches and sufferers of mental health disorders, adding to the ambition for awareness of the pressures that can occur within and beyond the sporting environment.

Co-founder Jack, spoke of RTHM’s campaign as one with ‘the primary aim of making mental health an easier conversation for people who are struggling alone’ commenting that ‘selling the tech tops has been an effective means of spreading our campaign throughout the UK and we're now looking promote and educate through some exciting projects coming soon!'.

With rowing’s bi-annual BUCS’ event being held on the Gloucester rowing course, co-hosted by the University of Bristol this weekend, athletes from over 100 clubs are set to descend on the water, wearing the RTHM racing tops in solidarity. Athletes will be showing their support for members of their rowing community like René, who have lost their lives due to the struggles posed by mental health. The work done by Tommy and Jack, as well as the unwavering support of athletes, coaches and professionals across the rowing circuit is impressive to say the least. The conversation around mental well-being in the sport, at university and beyond, has begun.

If you’d like to get involved or show your support, you can get in touch by emailing rthm.ukmind@gmail.com or via social media @rthm_uk.

Featured photo by Tommy Nicholson


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