PONTYPOOL RFC chief executive Ben Jeffreys has opened up about his mental health struggles in the hope he can help others who may be dealing with depression.

Mr Jeffreys, 31, announced in March he was taking a leave of absence from the rugby club to undergo treatment for depression – since then he has required hospital treatment for internal bleeding and a stomach ulcer brought on by prolonged stress.

“I was in such a bad place and physically unwell,” Mr Jeffreys told the Argus. “When you fall into that hole, it’s very difficult to get back out.”

Since leaving hospital, the Pooler chief executive said he was “beginning to feel well again” and, as part of his therapy, he has begun writing a blog, The Mindfield.

By sharing his experiences, he hopes to encourage others to avoid going it alone in trying to deal with their mental health concerns.

So often, he said, the temptation was to avoid talking about depression and anxiety, especially in rugby and the world of sport where competitiveness and ruthlessness are key components of success.

“There’s a reputation attached to our sport – to be macho, strong, and not to show weakness,” he said. “I feel there are a lot of people in sport with struggles who are going through it alone.”

But while sport had played “huge role in [his] recovery over the years” and was “an outlet to the negativity and pain”, Mr Jeffreys said his depression became so severe that he would do anything to be alone.

“Recently it became impossible for me to do my job,” he said. “I got into a place where I couldn’t cope with anything, but felt too ashamed to say.”

Mr Jeffreys said he “tried to push on for months”, adding: “When I tried to work through it on my own, that was when I went to a dangerous place.”

The Pooler chief executive spent two spells at a rehabilitation centre but said he later regressed after “putting too much pressure on [himself] not to fail”.

He is gradually recovering from the stomach ulcer brought on by stress, and said his aim now was to “get some structure back in my life” and “not to get in a place of isolation and hopelessness again”.

He urged anyone else going through similar experiences to talk to somebody and avoid trying to deal with their struggles alone.

And there are plans to develop The Mindfield into a podcast, inviting others from the world of sport to add their voices to the conversation on mental health.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface of mental health problems in sport and in society – and some people still look down [on people with depression],” Mr Jeffreys said. “We have to keep the conversation going, have compassion, and break those barriers down.”

Visit the blog at at https://themindfieldpodcast.wordpress.com/2020/05/26/test/

Be aware it contains discussion of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Support with mental health is available from your GP, or from Mind Cymru on 0300 123 3393 via info@mind.org.uk or by texting 86463.

Confidential, 24-hour support for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts is available from the Samaritans on 116 123.