Northern NSW Football and Newcastle Netball Association have joined forces to encourage players, supporters, and volunteers to connect with one another this weekend.
Initially scheduled for July, Mental Health Awareness Round was initiated by Northern NSW Football to bring together winter sports and help break down the stigma of mental illness.
Belmont-Swansea Football Club player Luke Conners spoke at the launch of the event in March.
As a Group Facilitator with Talk2MeBro, Conners told the room how losing those close to him to suicide had inspired him to speak to sporting teams and school groups about what they could do to support one another and identify when someone needed help.
Talk2MeBro is a non-profit organisation developed to help reduce the number of males who commit suicide by creating societal change.
It aims to encourage men to feel comfortable in talking about what they are going through.
Since the season launch, Talk2MeBro has visited a number of football clubs throughout Northern NSW and hopes to visit more before the end of the current campaign.
“Whilst we have the ‘bro’ in our title, Talk2MeBro works to break down the stigma of mental health amongst any gender and encourages teammates and colleagues to be open to listening to each other,” Conners said.
Mental Health Awareness Round will now take place on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 September.
Northern NSW Football Chief Executive, David Eland, says mental health wellbeing is a priority for the organisation.
“At our season launch in March, all 28 premier clubs signed a pledge to foster a culture that is inclusive, supportive and respectful, and to take care of the mental health wellness and overall wellbeing of players, coaches, volunteers and supporters,” he says.
“The support received from the clubs surrounding the initiative was absolutely outstanding.
“I was blown away and pleased to see the positive reactions and proactivity towards the pledge and removing the stigma sometimes linked to discussing mental health.”
Newcastle Netball Association Community Engagement Officer, Monique Smith, says it is wonderful to work with other winter codes to spread a message which is essential to the entire community, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sport, especially team-based sports such as netball and football, is proven to be fundamental to overall health and wellbeing,” she says.
“It is essential that our members here at Newcastle Netball Association, as well as our wider netball community, are able to identify changes in behaviour and know where to access assistance and support.”
Lifeline Regional General Manager, Julie Wicks, applauded the different sporting codes for coming together to promote mental wellbeing across the board.
“The sheer numbers of people who can be reached through winter sports is wonderful, and there has never been a more challenging time in our communities than through this pandemic to support a message of ‘connecting’ and reducing the stigma of talking about our mental health,” she says.
*If you are feeling overwhelmed, please contact your GP or reach out to Lifeline by phone, 13 11 14, or text 0477 131 114 between 6pm and midnight (AEST).