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Former England captain Jamie Peacock launches mental health programme

Former England captain Jamie Peacock launches mental health programme
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Jamie Peacock, who won nine Super League Grand Finals, is drawing on personal experiences from his 18-year rugby league career.

Former England captain Jamie Peacock is aiming to beat the blues in his drive to improve the well-being of the nation.

The ex-Bradford and Leeds forward has chosen Blue Monday, the day post-Christmas when experts say people feel most depressed, to launch an interactive mental health and well-being programme called Be A Champion.

Peacock, who won nine Super League Grand Finals, is drawing on personal experiences from his 18-year rugby league career to address issues which have been exacerbated by the latest lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

A report by Public Health England found that self-reported mental health and well-being worsened during the first lockdown and psychological distress, anxiety and depressive symptoms peaked in 2020.

The 43-year-old is also supporting home learning for children during school closures by offering a free virtual well-being session and copies of his book to kids aged 11 and over.

"I've been involved in well-being since I retired from playing, starting with the NHS and moving into businesses and schools," Peacock told the PA news agency.

"It's been proven that, if you have good sleeping habits, eat healthy, are fit and active and have a positive mindset, it gives you have stronger mental health which enables you to deal with stresses – that's something I really believed in during my career.

"Plenty of my ex-team-mates are enjoying using the programme but it's designed for every person. I wanted to cut through all the jargon and make it as simple as possible so it's achievable for everybody.

"It's about moderation, not being a monk. Making a few moderate changes will allow you to feel better mentally so something as simple as drinking six to eight glasses of water a day, that's a tip that has had a huge impact on people who have tried it.

"Also not using your phone an hour before bedtime and just committing to 20 minutes of activity a day – and that can be a 20-minute walk – they are three small changes that can make a real big difference to people.

"If you stick to it for 30 days it can create more robust habits and allow you to deal with the stresses of what's going on at the moment with the lockdown and restrictions."

Peacock left his role as head of rugby at Hull KR at the end of the 2018 and took up a commercial role with Leeds but that was naturally put on ice during the pandemic and he has found himself working virtually full time on his latest project.

"Before lockdown I'd say maybe 20 per cent of my working day was spent on well-being but now it's looking more like 70 or 80 per cent because there is such a need for it," he said.

The Be A Champion programme is delivered initially in the form of a book but also includes weekly videos to help improve subscribers' physical condition and £2 from every sale is being split between two charities – Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and Greenhouse Sports, which places coaches in schools in deprived areas.

Peacock raised over £50,000 for MND by running an ultra marathon in October in support of his former team-mate and close friend Rob Burrow who has been diagnosed with the disease.

"Being in the public eye, I feel a duty to raise money for good causes and these two causes are close to me," he said.

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