Fans heckling sports stars damage their mental health, warns Brent Pope
Sports fans should be wary of hurling verbal abuse at sports stars from the stands, rugby legend Brent Pope has warned.
The former All Blacks star said it could have a serious impact on a player who had mental health issues.
Pope was at the Aviva Stadium yesterday to help launch the Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit, which takes place on October 13 in the venue.
"Some people who suffer from mental health issues will take the one negative comment rather than the 100 positives," Pope said.
The RTÉ pundit routinely gets calls from parents worried about their son or daughter's mental health after they have suffered a setback in the sport.
"I know what it's like to have your dream snatched away from you, like when I missed out on the All Blacks in 1987," he said.
"You get a young player now, and his dreams are to play for Leinster or Munster, making great money.
"Then suddenly, he runs into an injury, and that's taken away from him.
"It's how he addresses it mentally that is the worry."
Pope said he had grown up playing in a rugby environment where there was shame attached to being considered what was called mentally weak.
"Growing up in a stereotypical macho society with rugby players, it was a case of 'harden up, toughen up and man up'," he said. "If anything worried you in the mind, you were told to work on it physically.
"I would have loved to have been told, 'we'll get these issues sorted'."
He added: "I don't want you people to carry the shame around - we are who we are."
Early-bird tickets have sold out for the summit, but other tickets are still available for the day-long event.
Pope will be speaking, along with a host of mental health experts.