Sadly, for the state of the nation’s health, mental illness is a plight not uncommon amongst the greater Australian public.
Near on 20 per cent of Australians aged 16-85 will report a mental illness in any given year, and unsurprisingly, the issue is not one that escapes those within Rugby League circles.
The pressures of professional football can often be overbearing, even for some of the game’s finest stars. However, luckily for all involved, the stigma around the ‘soft’ side of mental health has well and truly been shaken off.
The Black Dog Institute, a mental health awareness organisation proudly backed by this week’s game day partner Coates Hire, is a ‘world leader in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder’.
Many current NRL players have ties with the institute in the hope of encouraging a state of positive mental health within the game, and Sharks outside back Gerard Beale threw his support behind the work of the organisation.
“It’s quite clear just how much pressure there is on the players in the game now, and it’s something that we all need to be aware of,” Beale said.
"...That old school mentality of to ‘be a man about it’, that’s not the right way to go about it. That’s not the case anymore."
An issue not far from his heart, Beale said he’s seen instances – be it with family, friends, or teammates – of mental illness, and has felt desperate to help on a number of occasions.
“There’s plenty of people I know who have been involved (with mental health awareness organisations), or those who have suffered,” said Beale.
“More personally, everyone goes through it at some stage. Be it severely, or just the tip of the ice berg, it’s definitely an issue that needs to be addressed. And increasingly, I think it is.”
Always sporting a smile, be it at Sharks training or away from the bright lights of Southern Cross Group Stadium, Beale knows only too well that some League players have faced – and continue to face – the struggles of mental illness.
“Looking back, I’ve definitely noticed some teammates who had gone through some tough times,” Beale said.
“Sometimes it’s just acting differently, or not performing at their best. I just didn’t’ know how to approach them to make sure that they were okay.
“But definitely that old school mentality of to ‘be a man about it’, that’s not the right way to go about it. That’s not the case anymore.
“Sometimes it’s harder to come out and to say that something’s wrong … but that stigma is slowly breaking down which is good. It’s good to see more people in the game are coming forward and looking for help.”
For more information about the Black Dog Institute or to make contact with the organisation, please see the details below.
Black Dog Institute
(02) 9382 4530 Email: [email protected]