England prop Joe Marler has called for mental health support for British and Irish Lions players on this summer’s tour of South Africa.
After missing out on Warren Gatland’s squad for the upcoming tour, the 30-year-old recommends that a psychiatrist is included among the Lions staff.
“It’ll be a tough ask for them [the players],” Marler said.
“If I was part of it, I would definitely recommend they get someone with that particular set of skills [psychiatry] to be there.”
Marler told the BBC’s Today Programme he believed Lions coaches would “address” the mental difficulties of the tour before the squad departs.
He added that the trip would be particularly challenging “in this Covid world”, with the group playing and training in a bubble environment for the entire tour.
“Lions tours are tough, particularly for players that have got families and they spend long periods away from them,” Marler continued.
He says the trigger for him becoming aware of his depression was an occasion when he failed to change direction in his car to avoid hitting a squirrel in the road. He did not hit the squirrel, but he and his wife got into an argument about the incident.
“It then led to me turning the house over, me running out on my pregnant wife, and then reaching my lowest point and realising that was enough for me, and that I needed to go and get some help,” said Marler.
As a result of that day he sought help from a psychiatrist but says living with depression is a “constant learning”, adding that he is “not entirely sure there is an end”.
Lions decision avoids ‘awkward conversation’ with wife
Marler had expressed his disappointment at not being included in the 2021 tour against the world champions after being part of the 2017 Lions squad.
But he admits that Gatland’s decision saved him a “particularly awkward conversation” with his wife Daisy, who is due to give birth to their fourth child in June.
Marler explained: “If I had been picked, I’d have had that little chat.
“‘I’ve been picked for the Lions.’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, what does that mean?’
“‘Well, it means I might have to go away for nine weeks.’ She says, ‘OK, that’s, that’s cool. If you need to go away for nine weeks you go. We probably won’t be here when you get back.’