Rugby veteran wants to end ‘man-up’ culture at mental health mission


Richard Lucas wants to make it easier for people to seek support for mental health and wellbeing in their schools and workplaces (Image: Richard Lucas/Govox)

A former rugby player wants to end the ‘man up’ culture and replace it with a ‘speak up’ generation by giving young people a platform to seek help when the clouds are dark.

Richard Lucas has joined friends on a mission to save lives after two young men playing for a rival grassroots club committed suicide.

Working as a gas engineer at the time, he was already affected when a young employee of the company attempted suicide.

Raised to aspire to a manly image, the father of two children played rugby from a young age before becoming a coach and being chairman of his local club in Hitchin, Herts for five years.

While he was aware of the stark numbers surrounding teen suicides, the numbers became a deeply personal mission in 2018 when his friends took their own lives at a club his side played regularly.

“Rugby is a very aggressive sport, it’s man to man but we’re all friends off the field,” said Richard. “When you lose a couple of young lads it has a huge impact on everyone and it got incredibly personal for me.

“I grew up in the ‘male generation’, went to an all-boys high school, rugby is a male sport and I’ve worked in a male environment. I really hope I never uttered those words “man up”.

“But the environment in which we grew up was very much shaped by it. After the local suicides, we began to ask the question, when people get to this point, where is the support for them? We just wanted to fix the problem.’

Caption: WEEKEND CONTENT Rugby veteran wants to end the'man-up' culture after losing young friends to suicide. Credit RICHARD LUCAS/GOVOX

Richard Lucas spent his life in grassroots rugby but now runs a mental health and wellbeing project off the pitch (Image: Richard Lucas/Govox)

Richard, 47, identified a gap between the available mental health and wellbeing support and the time it took to access help, particularly in schools, sports clubs and the workplace.

His mission is also informed by his time as a team manager in the gas industry, which described a young man in a “near miss” after attempting suicide in a park the night before work.

The troubled soul had suffered a relationship breakdown and other issues in his personal life that Richard was unaware of.

Together with two friends from the local rugby scene, the entrepreneur founded Govox, a company that provides a digital platform that is now offered free of charge to 1,000 secondary schools.

The tool aims to be an early warning system, with students completing monthly “check-ins” that allow teachers to provide help and support if an overall well-being assessment shows someone is at risk.

The £5million scheme launched on Wednesday comes at a time when suicides among teenagers have increased by almost 50% over the past decade, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

Caption: WEEKEND CONTENT Rugby veteran wants to end the'man-up' culture after losing young friends to suicide. Credit RICHARD LUCAS/GOVOX

The Govox platform features a dashboard where users answer simple questions and get an overall wellbeing score (Image: Richard Lucas/Govox)

Caption: WEEKEND CONTENT Rugby veteran wants to end the'man-up' culture after losing young friends to suicide. Credit RICHARD LUCAS/GOVOX

Govox aims to pinpoint mental health and wellbeing issues that can be reported back within a school or organization (Image: Richard Lucas/Govox)

Richard, who lives in Hitchin with his wife Elaine and their 19-year-old son and 22-year-old daughter, found some common ground as he and his team researched suicide.

“In some suicide cases, which were predominantly males but also females, the people around them, their support networks, their friends and family, they all said they didn’t expect it to be them,” he said.

“Something was missing from the society’s connection, if you will, that people fought to the point that they thought taking their own lives was the answer to their problems and problems.

“But the people around them who could have really supported them didn’t have any visibility of it and that’s the part we’re trying to bring to the table.”

Richard Lucas and two friends want to make it easier for people to get help when they're feeling unhappy

Richard Lucas and two friends want to make it easier for people to find an ear when they’re unhappy (Image: Richard Lucas/Govox)

Experts like Dr. Sam Norton of King’s College London, mental health charity Papyrus, the local Mind service and NHSx, the health service’s technology and data arm, have helped develop the programme.

Govox aims to enable schools on a tight budget to assess students’ abilities to cope with stresses such as work and exams, and can also refer to outside organizations if necessary.

As well as rising teenage suicide rates, this is also due to figures from NHS Digital showing that one in six children aged between six and 16 in England is likely to have a mental health problem.

The online platform is also available to organizations such as companies or sports clubs via a fee-based model.

As a leader in sports and work, Richard recognizes that reaching young people is critical to creating balanced, conscientious leaders in the future.

“All the medical and ethical people we talk to talk about adult mental health being traced back to things that happen when people are young. So the sooner you can have a conversation and provide support, the better,” he said.

(Image: Richard Lucas/Govox)

1,000 schools will be offered a health and well-being platform free of charge (Image: Richard Lucas/Govox)

“I want to create an environment where young people when they ask for help know that the help is there and that it is effective.

“We chose to do this through a digital route because that is the medium young people are comfortable with.

“There are a lot of negative elements in social media and the digital world, but the honesty that comes from our young people on the platform is really quite open, honest and powerful.

“I grew up in the Man Up generation and we want to create a future where we have a generation that speaks up, that knows if they do that they will be supported. To me, the leaders of the future are educating today and we need to create an environment where it’s okay to say, “I don’t feel happy today,” and someone will sit down and support you.

“If they are leaders in the future, they will bring those behaviors with them and create an environment at school, in the workplace, in sports and in society in general where people aren’t afraid to say they don’t feel okay.” , and the support is there.’

Schools can register at

To contact the Samaritans, call toll free 116 123 or click here

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Justin Scacco

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