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Intercepting troubled mates on the field

The back drop of sport is once again being used to champion mental health awareness with at risk males - on a large scale.

The Movember-funded program, Ahead of the Game, uses trained ex-rugby players to work with teenagers from community rugby clubs.

The program shows participants how to spot if a friend or team player is struggling, and uses language from the field to illustrate how the pack can support a troubled player, out on his own and struggling with personal issues. 

The UK program will be expanded across northern England over the next 18 months to reach 8000 teenagers, athletes and coaches in 21 cities, in a bit to address the alarming statistics around male suicide, which is the leading cause of death of men aged 15-49.

Developed by the University of Wollongong, the initiative has been announced as an official mental health program of the Rugby League World Cup 2021.

RLWC2021 is the first global sporting event to launch a Mental Fitness Charter that seeks to have everyone involved in the sport trained to look after their own mental fitness and that of those around them by the end of the tournament.

“Half of all mental health problems have their onset before the age of 14, so giving young men the skills to cope with these challenges is really important,” Ahead of the Game lead researcher, Dr Stewart Vella from UOW’s School of Psychology told Australasian Leisure Management. 

“Our research has shown that teenage boys who undergo just two hours of sport-based mental health and resilience training demonstrated a better understanding of what mental health is, had greater intentions to help others who have a mental health problem and were more confident about seeking help themselves if they needed to.”

One 15-year-old who went through the program said it had helped him deal with the panic attacks he had experienced as a result of 10 years’ bullying.

"I have autism and dyslexia - and it's particularly hard for people like us to say how we feel,” Daniel told BBC news.

"This program has shown me that there are people out there who can help, and that people are able to get through what hurts."

"Now, if someone insults me, then I get over it quicker.

"I just say to myself 'so be it'. It's really helped me to improve how I deal with things like that," he says.

Take action for men’s health

Read: Mental Health Initiative accepted as official Rugby League World Cup 2021 program

Read: Suicide Prevention Australia ‘Turning points: imagine a world without suicide’ (PDF)

Attend: Turning Points Panel Discussion

Read: Ballarat men's health advocate calls on real action to prevent male suicide (AMHF)

Read: Suicide prevention funding should put more focus on men (AMHF)

Read: Give blokes a fair share of suicide funding says AMHF

Read: Tell yourself what you’d tell a mate (AMHF)




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