The All Blacks Approach to Mental Health

Andrew Hawkins | Deputy Headmaster and Head of Senior School

I am reminded regularly this time of year by our kiwi cousins on staff such as HR Manager Robyn Baker-Wright, Acting Turnock Housemaster Mr Jed Hogan, and current Kaiser Housemaster Mr Sam Huckstep how much better the All Blacks are than the Wallabies. As I was born and raised in Australia by Australian parents and grandparents, it really hurts to say it, but I have to agree with them.

You may not follow sport, but inevitably you will know who the All Blacks are – one of most successful sporting team identities of all-time. Our 1st XV Coach Mr Mike Wallace recently sent me an article on the approach the All Blacks take to mental health and vulnerability. I have always respected the All Blacks and I wasn’t surprised to read about their culture of acknowledgement, disclosure and acceptance of vulnerability actively being encouraged from all players. The following passage from article articulates quite succinctly their approach.

The All Blacks attitude is one of “thriving” through and not merely “surviving” mental health challenges. This approach emphasises strength through adversity, and mental health vulnerability is seen as manageable, not as a defining character flaw of the athlete. By framing mental health issues in this way, it is an acknowledgement that everyone shares a vulnerability to mental health issues – regardless of societal position, or how “tough” a person may be perceived to be.

The article also discusses three main areas:

  • Acceptance is not weakness – they take care of their own and others wellbeing
  • Mind the empathy gap – recent research found that the incentives for athletes to ask for help and potentially get better are essentially outweighed by the negative consequences of appearing mentally weak
  • Vulnerability is not weakness – coping mechanisms of alcohol, drugs and gambling are not encouraged or allowed


We are working hard here at TSS in the area of mental health and feel we all have a responsibility to help close the “empathy” gap, and show our boys, like the All Black players and fans, that disclosing mental health is not a weakness, it’s a sign of strength. With an attitude to vulnerability, empathy and weakness that the All Blacks promote, I feel it will be some time before the Wallabies get their hands on the Bledisloe Cup!


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