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Ex-England player Tom Johnson opens up on getting bullied as a teen

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Former England international Tom Johnson has revealed the traumatic bullying he suffered as a teenager. The soon-to-be 41-year-old won eight Test caps under Stuart Lancaster between 2012 and 2014. At the time, he was a back-rower in the Exeter set-up that had come up from the Championship to establish itself in the Premiership.  

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Having retired in 2017 after 10 years in the Chiefs first-team, he set up the Tom Johnson Lifestyle to take an all-encompassing approach to health and wellbeing. However, in February last year, he also founded Plus-ed, a company that has been working with primary schools to impact the current and future mental health of students. 

He has now opened up on the issues he endured himself when growing up, sharing his story via a compelling Linkedin post. “Childhood trauma: Bullying – it can happen to anyone,” he began. “What we experience in our early years has a huge effect on our life outcomes and happiness. 

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“As someone who experienced peer-to-peer, relentless bullying (physical, psychological) from age 13-18, I understand how this has manifested in me over the last few decades and how hard it is to talk about it. It is something I’m still trying to figure out and hopefully something I’ll be able to speak up more and more.

“One thing I didn’t have when I was young was a way to communicate (voice, body language) which I now understand is the single most important part of being happy. I hope this and future posts will help adults be able to really listen and see what our children are trying to communicate so that they can be as happy as children should be. 

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“There are many types of childhood trauma but they all have significant effects on a child’s future prospects and well-being. Here are some of the impacts – Emotional and Psychological Impact: Childhood trauma can lead to a range of emotional and psychological difficulties, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health issues. These challenges can persist into adulthood and affect a person’s overall quality of life. 

“Behavioral Problems: Traumatized children may exhibit behavioral problems such as aggression, impulsivity, self-destructive behaviors, or difficulties with self-regulation. These issues can interfere with their ability to form healthy relationships and succeed academically. 

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“Cognitive Impairment: Trauma can impact a child’s cognitive functioning and academic performance. It may hinder their ability to concentrate, learn, and retain information, leading to educational setbacks and lower academic achievement. 

“Social Difficulties: Children who have experienced trauma may struggle with forming trusting relationships, establishing healthy boundaries, and managing emotions effectively. These challenges can affect their social interactions, friendships, and ability to navigate the world successfully.” 

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Turlough 4 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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