World Cup ref blows the whistle on mental health
27 January 2015
Former international rugby referee Clive Norling presided over more than 1,000 matches in a career lasting almost 25 years, including 35 test matches and the quarter-final of the first ever Rugby World Cup in 1987. Now, Norling, 64, is tackling another challenge – encouraging thousands in Wales to take part in mental health research.
Norling was inspired to help the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH), based at Cardiff University, after experiencing mental health problems himself.
While working as Director of Referees for the WRU, Norling developed severe depression that led to him resigning his position.
"My mind fell into a black hole full of hopelessness, and my normal cheerful and optimistic attitude changed to gloom and pessimism," says Norling.
As the illness progressed, he found himself living on just two hours of sleep a night, struggling with everyday tasks like showering and shaving, and losing more than 3 stone in body weight in just two months.
"I became very withdrawn within myself, not wanting to see or talk to anyone other than my partner, Mair. She was my rock, and without her I most certainly would not be here to tell this story."
With Mair's support and the right treatment, Norling recovered and was able to move forward with his life again.
In July 2014 he graduated with a doctorate in Philosophy from Cardiff University, where he heard about NCMH's research.
Norling volunteered and spoke with researchers about his experiences, and also agreed to become a Research Champion for the centre to promote its work.
"As someone who had 'walked the walk' when it came to mental illness, I was pleased to be able to contribute" says Norling.
"I would encourage fellow sufferers of mental health problems to contact NCMH and talk openly to the researchers about their personal experience. Like catching a cold, mental illness can affect anyone, and so greater understanding is needed."
The number of people in Wales volunteering to help with mental health research has doubled since the start of 2014.
More than 4,000 people of all ages from across Wales have now taken part in NCMH's research.
The centre aims to contribute to better diagnosis, treatment and support for the future by collecting data from thousands of people on the genetic, psychological and environmental causes of mental health problems.
NCMH Director Professor Ian Jones said: "People like Clive are absolutely instrumental in our research, which we believe will make life better for people affected by mental illness in the future.
"We're privileged to have his support and that of many thousands of other volunteers. But we need more people to come forward to help us learn how best to tackle mental health problems in the future."