Mental Health Round 2024: Ryan Tyrrell's Journey With Rugby and Mental Health

Thu, May 16, 2024, 3:20 AM
by RugbyWA Media

Both on and off the field, mental health is just as important as physical health – and no one knows this better than former Western Force hooker, Ryan Tyrrell. 

A Western Australian local, it was a dream of Ryan Tyrrell’s to play professional rugby. Beginning his journey with Rockingham Rugby Union Football Club, Tyrrell went on to represent Western Australia from Under 15’s through to Perth Gold.  

After spending some time in Brisbane, Tyrrell signed to the Western Force Academy in 2009, before debuting for the Force in 2010.  

A significant neck injury in 2011 cut his time with the Force short, forcing Tyrrell to step away from rugby to recover. 

It was his 2012 transfer to Cardiff Blues in Wales, and subsequent return to Australia to play with the Melbourne Rebels a season later which was a pivotal point for Tyrrell's mental health. 

"I was unable to fulfill my contract with the Melbourne Rebels due to mental health reasons,” Tyrrell said. “Although I wasn’t aware of it then, this was the first big step on my mental health journey.” 


Tyrrell is one of many professional athletes who have faced mental health concerns throughout their career, with data reflecting that 35% of elite athletes will suffer from a mental health crisis – meaning it is critical to make mental health just as important as physical health. 

“As I stepped on the path of recovery, I realised that I had suffered with anxiety for most of my life and what I now know as intrusive thoughts from a young age, before being diagnosed with OCD in my early 30’s. A few years later I was also diagnosed with ADHD,” Tyrrell shared. 

“Throughout my life I was often able to mask my internal conflict and present as functioning enough to perform at a high level in rugby and my work life, but my family and close friends were aware of some of my behaviours and struggles and helped me to become aware of what was going on.” 

“Being diagnosed and subsequent treatment allowed me to begin understanding my condition, cultivating awareness and eventually acceptance.” 

“I was lucky enough to work with an amazing therapist when I needed most, who I believe saved my life.” 


Prioritising his mental health and wellbeing allowed Tyrrell to begin a journey towards healing. 

“Once I understood my condition better, I could slowly make some sustainable long-term holistic lifestyle changes which have had the biggest impact on my mental health,” Tyrrell said, when asked about the changes made in his life to support his mental health. 

“I began drinking less alcohol, started a painting practice and focused on slowing down, allowing rest and recovery to take precedence in my life.” 

“I’ve also begun meditating frequently and have unwavering support from my partner, friends and family over the last few years.” 

“Most importantly I began working on self-love and acceptance.” 


Now, Tyrrell works as a men’s coach, to help others struggling with mental health concerns on their journey to wellness. 

“I help men not only overcome any mental health issues but also any perceived limiting beliefs or self-worth struggles which are preventing them from living a healthy, fulfilling and purpose driven life. I got into this work as I was coached while in my own recovery phase and realised this is a space I’m extremely passionate about.” 

“It is my life’s purpose.”   

“I also had the realisation that throughout my rugby career and life I have been coached and mentored by some powerful men and I want to be able to pay that forward.” 

Ryan Tyrrell RugbyWA

In 2022, after almost ten years away from rugby, Tyrrell returned to the club where it all began – Rockingham. He stepped into the role of a Forwards’ Coach for a few years for the club, helping others along their own rugby journeys. 

“Stepping into rugby coaching was a nice opportunity to give back to the club where it all started and who over many years helped me achieve my dreams.” 

“It was a dream of mine to play Super Rugby and Heineken Cup in Europe, and I am incredibly proud to have achieved this.” 


For players coming up through the rugby pathways, who are involved in the community game or at a professional level, there are support systems in place – even closer to home than they may realise. 

“People want to help, trust me,” Tyrrell said. “But sometimes we feel like a burden, and it is important to know this is never the case.” 

“Feel comfortable enough to have an open dialogue with friends, family or teammates if they’re not ok.” 

“Look after yourself, take care of yourself physically and practice positive self-talk. Work on being more present in your day and relationships, and be involved in community, whether that is the rugby community or otherwise.” 


As for advice Tyrrell would offer to anyone struggling with their mental health - 

“The first step is to reach out and speak with someone as soon as possible. This could be a friend, family member, another player or a professional. There are many different avenues that you can be supported through.” 

“If you are not comfortable in sharing with someone you know, there are a number of services that you can reach out to anonymously, 24/7 for more information or an understanding ear.” 

“Don’t feel overwhelmed or ashamed to articulate that you’re not sure what’s going on or why you’re feeling a certain way. You are not alone, and you’re not the first person that has gone through what you are experiencing.” 


The mental health and wellbeing of all players involved in the rugby community is of utmost importance. It is vital that all players, coaches, volunteers, referees, spectators and club members are healthy, mentally and physically, and know there are resources available if they need assistance. 

RugbyWA has launched its Mental Health and Wellbeing page, with resources for clubs and individuals, for those who need assistance. Resources provided by TrueSport, including toolkits and mental health first aid, are accessible via the link.  


For those needing immediate assistance, call 13 11 14 for Lifeline (24/7 counselling). Other crisis and mental health contacts and services are available through RugbyWA’s Mental Health and Wellbeing page.  


This weekend of RugbyWA’s Competition is Mental Health Round. To view the fixtures for this round, visit