Rhys Thomas: Mental Health

Rhys Thomas has been on a remarkable journey in the past few years, after suffering a major heart attack in 2012, which forced him to end his playing days when he was just 29 years old. Rhys’ inspirational story serves as a powerful reminder that anyone, regardless of their situation, has the ability to transform their life, and he is a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and hard work in overcoming obstacles and achieving success.

Thomas has seen some incredible highs during his professional rugby career, including playing a part in Wales’ 2008 Grand Slam winning side, but in 2012 he received his biggest curve ball yet when a heart attack forced a new pace of life on the South African born player.

The Former Wales International, who has long struggled with mental health, revealed that he struggled to stay positive after losing a part of his self-identity whilst not being able to play rugby.

“It was a horrible period for my family. I was very lucky to have survived, but when the dust started to settle, that was when the situation really started to hit home,” said Thomas.

“When I left hospital, I was very unwell. On top of that, the physical battle then turned into a huge mental battle.

“I struggled massively, I had a lot of remorse and guilt. The ego kicked in; I thought I was fine. But because I felt I couldn’t speak to anyone; I lost a sense of purpose.

“I had this battle in my mind whenever I was looking towards the future, I couldn’t see a positive way forward.”

Thomas’ breakthrough from that cycle wasn’t a eureka moment, far from it. But eventually he was able to reach out for the help he needed.

“I had to lose everything to ask for support. It’s a miracle how I’m here today,” Thomas added.

Through long hours of work at home and in rehab, as well as time spent in AA, Thomas was able to lay the foundations of his recovery.

“The power of group therapy gave me the ability to be vulnerable with strangers. That was a huge turning point for me. It’s so important to put yourself first.”

Thomas never imagined that he would find himself years later as the co-founder of a mental health and wellbeing charity and public speaker, spreading his messages of positivity and resilience to others. But a chance meeting with Matthew Creel, Thomas’ first captain at Newport Youth, saw a remarkable opportunity arise and the pair decided to join forces to create ‘Tidy Butt’.

“We work in almost every sector, from education to corporate and everything in between,” said Thomas.

“We have grown a lot since our early beginnings; we offer an authentic look into different aspects of mental health from our personal experiences.”

The charity also offers workshops, wellbeing days and days out for the local and youth community.

“We will continue to make an impact on the community and further afield and hopefully leave a legacy for the future.

“I’m excited, it has been such a ride. It’s not come without immense challenges, but it gives me purpose and I hope it will continue.”

For more information on Rhys’ work, visit: