Professional rugby player Greg Bateman was struggling with his mental health and found it tough to reach out to his friends and ask for help.
But one day when his friend invited him out for a pint he revealed his struggle with depression and ultimately his conversation over a beer changed his life.
Bateman went on to brew his own craft beers and paired this with mental health after he realised everyone loved his beer, but they also wanted to know how he sought help.
He created the People’s Captain, who have recently partnered with an independent nationwide pub operator Punch Pubs where you can find the LEGEND Pale Ale on tap, with more beers to follow.
Bateman explained more about his battle with depression, how the People’s Captain came about and why he set up The People’s Captain Foundation.
I was probably six or seven, my dad told me I had two left feet, so football wasn’t for me! Sport was pretty prevalent at home, my parents really encouraged us to do loads, swimming, athletics, rugby or whatever we wanted to try really – maybe they just wanted us out of the house!
Have you battled with depression throughout your life or did you only recognise it over the past few years?
This is an interesting question because the honest answer is, I don’t know. I think the ‘big experience’ I’ve been public about obviously put it to the top of my agenda but I think looking back – I’m aware that I’ve had some moments but never felt like that before.
What was it like to tell the world about your battle with depression when you spoke about it on social media back in 2019?
Honestly, I was pretty nervous – obviously I’m a current player and was due to take the field the following weekend so it was pretty tough. But the thing that I wanted to get across was talking helped me – and I just kept telling myself if one person had a conversation with their mate like I did – then me feeling uncomfortable was worth it.
Would you say it’s still a taboo topic in rugby and what do you think needs to be done to normalise the conversations around mental health?
I would like to think that rugby is a really inclusive sport and the best thing about any club, is the lads and the supporters and they both got round me amazingly. In my opinion, the work that needs to be done is on an educational level but also, we spend countless hours on pitches or gyms, but we don’t spend time working on being mentally fit beyond just ‘performance’ – like, there’s sports psyches out there, talking about how to make decisions, deal with pressure etc. but not from a holistic point of view – but that’s no different to ‘the real world’.
How did People’s Captain come about and why did you want to go into the craft beer world?
A few years ago, I ran into a poor bout of mental health, and I didn’t really know how I was going to get out of it. A friend of mine had tried to get in touch with me for a number of months to get me out for a drink and to just try and get me talking. I ignored most of his calls or wasn’t really very engaged with it but eventually he managed to get me out for a pint. It was really tough to be honest because it was probably the first time that I’d admitted to him exactly how I was feeling but also probably myself how I was feeling.
In that moment I was really lucky that he didn’t try and fix anything for me, all he did was sit there and listen and we worked through some things together and on that path, I managed to get the help that I needed.
Meanwhile I was back in Leicester playing and a few local breweries did some brews with me, and I loved it. We did a launch in the middle of Leicester town and before we’d done the launch night, I did an article with David Walsh in the Sunday Times to try and encourage other people to reach out and have a conversation with their mates if they need to have a chat.
Everyone really loved the beer, but everyone really wanted to talk to me about the article and they wanted to know how I got the help I wanted to get. And it made me think there’s something in actually having a pint or having a brew with your mate that gets that conversation going.
I said we can do something with this, not just having a brand that makes really good beers but also, we stand for something that can help people and encourage them to talk. We’re not just a beer brand and we really mean that. We set up the People’s Captain Foundation which supports charities and initiatives in the UK to support positive mental health.
How important is it to you that some of the proceeds from sales of the beer go straight to The People’s Captain Foundation?
Hugely important, what we stand for is using the social power of craft beer to give people a nudge with the opportunity in that moment to check in on one another. So, we can have a positive social impact.
How do you feel about your new partnership with Punch Pubs?
Oh, it’s amazing. For someone at our size to have the opportunity to partner with Punch was a dream. It’s incredibly humbling but I think for them it’s been great too – to partner with a brand that really means something and the best thing of all? It’s just the beginning!
Written by Lucy Roberts for Female First, who you can follow on Twitter, @Lucy_Roberts_72.