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Referee Norling blows whistle on mental health

Former rugby union referee and NCMH Research Champion Clive Norling stars in a new short film encouraging people in Wales to talk about mental health.

Blowing the whistle on mental health, created for the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH), was filmed at Swansea Rugby Club and the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, and tells the story of Clive’s experience with depression.

Norling, now 64, was among the most respected of home nations referees during the 1980s presiding over more than 1000 matches in a career lasting almost 25 years, including 35 test matches. While working as Director of Referees for the WRU he developed severe depression, and illness that lead to him resigning his position in 2003.

“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 3st 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“I became very withdrawn within myself, not wanting to see or talk to anyone other than my partner, Mair.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 and its research into better diagnosis and treatment for mental health problems. Norling volunteered, and spoke with researchers about his experiences. He also agreed to become a Research Champion for the centre to promote its work, leading to his role in the film.

“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.”

NCMH Director Professor Ian Jones said:

“People like Clive are instrumental in our research, which we believe will make life better for people affected by mental health problems 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 make a difference.”


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National Centre for Mental Health, Cardiff University, Hadyn Ellis Building, Maindy Road, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ

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