News     10/06/2022

Men’s Health Week Interview: Adferiad Young People’s Ambassador Lloyd Ashley

We recently sat down with Adferiad Recovery’s Young People’s Ambassador Lloyd Ashley following the conclusion of a hugely successful rugby career with the Ospreys. Here we catch up with Lloyd, who runs his own wellbeing company ‘Living Well with Lloyd Ashley’, to speak more about how the past few months have been for him and about Men’s Health Week 2022.

So Lloyd, how is everything going since leaving the Ospreys after over a decade of playing professional rugby there?

All very good my end. It’s been a bit strange not going back to the same place of work since the beginning of pre-season 15 years ago. The family keeps me going, there’s so much going on outside of rugby, some bits I’ve planned for, some bits I haven’t, so it’s been really interesting. Normally I suppose most people don’t get to 31 without ever having to do an actual formal interview so it’s been a very interesting couple of weeks but very exciting – nerve wracking at different points too – but it’s been nice to step back, think about my rugby career and how lucky I was able to do that for so long. I’ve also been able to look at how well Living Well has been going the last couple of years, being an ambassador for Adferiad and all the mental health work so it’s been a nice time to reflect – I think in life we don’t take those opportunities to reflect so it’s been nice to do that.

We saw hundreds of messages on social media from everyone in rugby – players, coaches, staff and fans – thanking you and wishing you well. That must have been nice to hear?

I’ve got to say I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career with the Ospreys, I’ve been treated very well and supported through the good times and the bad times. It is always nice when you’re leaving and people take the time to wish you and your family well and thank you for all you’ve done over the years. Thank you for those messages, it was really nice to hear and read through them and it also makes it easier going into those reflective moments with people being so nice to you.

Throughout the past few years you’ve been Adferiad’s Young People’s Ambassador, supporting our various Children and Young People’s services a great deal. What have you got out of this role?

I get a great deal. You know you’re able to be there for young people and provide a service where they feel safe and I think Adferiad have done such a good job in providing those services over the years. As soon as I even had a conversation with the Adferiad team, I realised I wanted to be a part of it and be able to support in whatever way I could. At times I probably wish I could do more but to see how much it’s grown just since I’ve been on board has been fantastic and to see so many more young people accessing these services they need. It’s also been nice to experience some of the alternative things such as the tall ship voyage, seeing the young people with psychosis coming from that with massive smiles on their faces. They wouldn’t really get to experience those special moments if it wasn’t for an organisation like Adferiad. They’ve been amazing.

This week is Men’s Health Week, with this year’s theme urging men to give themselves an MOT. How important do you think it is for men to step back and reflect on their own health?

This is probably a really good time for me to speak about this because I’ve had the opportunity to take a step back and have a think about everything that’s going on personally. I think it’s really important – we do get caught up sometimes with so much going on, taking the burden of various things and not realising how much of a good job you have actually been doing. Even if sometimes we’re too busy, it’s really important to check in with friends and maintain those connections. Sometimes you need to step back and think ‘I haven’t spoken to so and so in a while’ or ‘I haven’t done this in a while even though I love doing it’ – I think it’s a really important thing to do. Men’s Health Week this week will hopefully give people the opportunity to reflect and do this, whether it’s 10 minutes or a couple of hours, it’s so important and there’s loads of ways to do it. It could be taking the dog for a walk, going for a coffee, meeting up with a friend, there’s so many different ways have that check in with ourselves and others. It’s vital for us to push this message, it’s not weak to reach out – we as men need the opportunity to check in to make sure everything is going okay. We all need to be better in ourselves to be better for everybody around us.

Being a professional sportsman for so many years, how important is it that people are physically active?

Physical activity doesn’t only have an impact on your physical health but it has a massive impact on your mental health as well. There’s so many different ways to do it, some people may not want to go to the gym but it can even be just going out for a walk, or starting the Couch to 5K and starting a running journey. Or maybe you do want to join a gym, have a look and see what classes they are doing. It’s so important, there’s never a wasted exercise session as you get the endorphins going and you will feel better about yourself as well.

Another aspect of the men’s MOT is checking any lumps and bumps and not being hesitant to address anything like this.

I definitely echo that. There’s so much information online about how we check ourselves, whether it’s worries about the prostate, testicular cancer or any other lumps and bumps. We need to check in on this. Regardless of age range, anybody can be at risk so it’s vital that we check and know how to go about it because we all want to be healthy and be around for as long as we possibly can.

What is your key message to men during Men’s Health Week?

It’s not weak to speak. We really do need to check in with our friends, give them a safe space where they can be honest and let them know you’re willing to be open with them and they will then be a lot more comfortable in being open and honest with you. We can fight the stigma but we’ve got to come together and speak to each other.