The NRL today announced the NRL State of Mind ambassadors for 2016 including Dyldam Parramatta Eels half Luke Kelly, the incumbant Blue and Gold ambassador.
The State of Mind ambassadors include representatives from all 16 clubs, the Harvey Norman Jillaroos and Touch Football Australia and form part of the campaign to reduce stigma around mental illness.
Now in its third year, the NRL State of Mind program aims to encourage players, clubs and communities to speak up and seek help if they are experiencing any form of difficulty or difference in their mood.
"I've had some experiences with some people close to me who have suffered from mental illness," Kelly said.
"It is something that I'm interested in and want to learn more about. If I can help in any way I can I am very keen to do so."
"There are always pressures in every job, but in football you also have pressure to perform; to play well and train well," the Eels half said.
"At club level we have a lot of great support staff whether it is coaches, trainers or our welfare department. There is always someone to help or who is willing to listen.
"It can be difficult in a rugby league setting where you don't want to be seen as weak or letting your team down.
"It's definitely not a weakness. Mental illness is something that can affect anyone. The quicker you can talk about it the quicker you can get on top of it."
One in two Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, with suicide the biggest killer of individuals aged 15 – 44.
The State of Mind Ambassadors, who are current NRL squad members, volunteered for the roles because they wanted to make a difference in the area of mental health.
"I'm currently studying my diploma in youth work. Through that program we do a lot of work with kids at risk - kids who aren't really in the mainstream in terms of schooling and sport, kids who don't have the best home life," Kelly said.
"It opens your eyes and makes your realise how lucky you are. To be able to help these kids is something I'm very keen on and passionate about."
After extensive consultation with coalition partners and junior clubs, an NRL State of Mind grassroots program has also been developed and will be delivered to select junior clubs throughout 2016.
The aim of the program is to:
• Reduce the stigma around mental health within clubs and communities
• Increase mental health literacy across grassroots Rugby League clubs
• Stimulate help seeking behaviours amongst club members and communities
To learn more about the program and if you or anyone you know would like support, visit www.nrlstateofmind.com.au
2016 NRL State of Mind ambassadors
Moses Mbye – Canterbury Bulldogs
Iosia Soliola – Canberra Raiders
Joseph Paulo – Cronulla Sharks
David Shillington – Gold Coast Titans
Dane Gagai – Newcastle Knights
Suaia Matagi – Penrith Panthers
James Segeyaro – Penrith Panthers
David Tyrrell – South Sydney Rabbitohs
Boyd Cordner – Sydney Roosters
Dale Finucane – Melbourne Storm
Jeff Robson – New Zealand Warriors
Matt Ballin – Wests Tigers
Ruan Sims – Australian Jillaroos
Samantha Hopkin – Touch Football Australia
2015 NRL State of Mind ambassadors – continuing in 2016
Darius Boyd – Brisbane Broncos
Sam Tagataese – Cronulla Sharks
Brenton Lawrence – Manly Warringah Sea-Eagles
Josh Starling – Manly Warringah Sea-Eagles
Tariq Sims – Newcastle Knights
Michael Morgan – North Queensland Cowboys
Luke Kelly – Parramatta Eels
Joel Thompson – St George Illawarra Dragons
John Palavi – New Zealand Warriors
Dene Halatau – Wests Tigers