MENTAL Health is on the agenda at Singleton Rugby Club tonight and footy clubs across the state after the NSW Government announced a $280,000 investment in the NRL’s flagship wellbeing initiative.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Minister for Mental Health and Regional Youth Bronnie Taylor, Nationals candidate for the Upper Hunter David Layzell were at the Singleton Rugby Club tonight for the program, a toolkit in a series of workshops to examine one’s mental health and watch for signs in others who may be struggling.
They met with former Captain of the Canberra Raiders Alan Tongue and New Zealand rugby player ClintonToopi to talk about the NRL’s ‘State of Mind’ program which educates grassroots clubs and players about mental health.
The program will see 60 mental health workshops held around the state for primary school students, high school students and adults delivered at both schools and local footy clubs. Across Australia, more than 5000 participants have already been involved and 281 mental health action plans have been drawn up.
Mr Barilaro said the money will be a game-changer for regional communities throughout the Upper Hunter.
“The workshops are age-appropriate and an important way of getting the message out that it’s ok to talk about mental health and seek help if need be. The program connects rugby league communities, including participants, fans and volunteers with mental health partners and local service providers.”
The key message behind the program is to ask young people the question: ‘What’s Your State of Mind?’, Mr Barilaro said.
Mrs Taylor said breaking down the stigma of mental health has come a long way, but more needs to be done.
“It’s great to see fitness displayed here at the football fields in Singleton and now we’re also talking about mental fitness,” Mrs Taylor said.
She said the program helped reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and revealed early indicators of distress in others who may not necessarily reach out for help themselves.
“Around 50 per cent of men who attempted suicide will not have reached out for help. What that tells us is, we need to do things differently. Alan Tongue has been involved in this program with the Raiders and he has an amazing ability to connect with people. We’re aware that one intervention can save a life,” she said.
“To incorporate mental fitness into footy training, we see it as a soft entry to intervention, to create a web of support around people.
“We’re building a safer, stronger regional NSW and the State of Mind program is a fantastic way to reach people from Muswellbrook to Merimbula,” Mrs Taylor said.
“Rugby league clubs are often at the heart of the community and getting young people talking about their mental health and wellbeing is a brilliant way to spread the word,” she said.
“There are also face-to-face sessions to improve mental health literacy as well as resources for clubs to educate players and fans of all ages.”
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo thanked the NSW Government for its support of the program.
“The NRL has a strong commitment to using the power of rugby league across communities and the profile of NRL players to make a positive social impact,” Mr Abdo said.
“Improving the mental wellbeing of our players, volunteers and administrators is a priority and with the support of the NSW Government thousands of additional people in our communities will be able to benefit from the State of Mind program,” he said.