How 'Kick Off' began.....and
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What began as an 'idea' to meet the
mental health issue of depression & suicide has fast developed into an all encompassing Mental Health
Following the death by suicide (in 2007) of two (2)
talented young footballers with bright futures, the question was posed; “Why is there no program for depression &
suicide specifically designed for Rugby League?” There certainly was, and is, an abundance of literature available and many organisations
that provide these services, though none are specific for the Rugby League; that is, an approach that relates
to aspects relating to the 'uniqueness of the sport', the 'sub-cultural' nature, 'the personality types',
'biochemical & physiological specifics' in such a body contact sport and so on.
One might suggest that this is not necessary, however
having spoken with many players, it is clear that they are very reluctant to take these steps and their
distorted views on mental health (and ill-health) is a significant impediment toward seeking assistance with
any problems they might be experiencing.
As such, ‘Kick Off’ was born; with this intention of addressing ‘Depression &
Suicide’ for the players.
The process of establishing the correct approach to
the problem & designing a useful & productive program/service began with the
- Gathering of
studies relating to Rugby League
& associated mental illness
- Research (both
personal & literature)
Upon completion of these preliminary steps, the
decision was made to adopt a two (2) fold approach; one being the establishment of a program, and the other
being the formulation of a ‘service’.
The program was the ‘overarching’ organizational structure and the provision of educational & informational
material for the benefit of the code. The service aspect entailed a ‘personal’, ‘hands-on’ mental health care delivery.
It was this 2nd component that would differentiate this
organisation from others.
The ‘Draft’ structure & concept was originally discussed with Mr. John McDonald (ARL
Chairman) and later presented to the Queensland State League CEOs. The response from all parties at the time
was very positive and encouraging.
A trial of the service was undertaken with the Wynnum
Manly Rugby League Club in Brisbane. It proved highly successful and was embraced by the footballers with surprising interest.
In a short space of time, five (5) players approached the service for help; three (3) of which received
To extrapolate this across the eleven (11) Wizard cup
teams in the QRL, would mean approximately 55 possible players in the competition in need of assistance with
aspects of their personal life. Given the brief time frame of the trial period, I would suggest the figure
would indeed be much higher.
These players who have contacted the team have never
spoken to any other agency, organisation or medical/mental health professional about their issues of concern
prior to the introduction of ‘Kick Off’ to the club.
It certainly appears there are impediments entrenched
in the player’s psyche which restricts and inhibits their willingness to seek help and assistance, despite
mechanisms being introduced by the league governing bodies in recent times.
Unfortunately, we were not able to continue the
service to the club due to financial constraints and work commitments. We were not funded in any way and this
brought with it too many added pressures that impinged upon the consistency and ‘longer-term’ effectiveness of the service.
What did occur as a result of this time with the club
& exposure to the players was the increased need for further expansion of the areas in
Educational information, flyers, newsletter, posters
& the formulation of workshops & ongoing education were developed, along with an
interactive ‘dedicated’ Web
It was also very apparent that there existed no
reference tool or text book that dealt with Rugby League & Mental Health specifically. As a result I
began writing ‘Mental Health
for Rugby League’, in order that there is an educational foundation
from which all mental health issues might be dealt with and that could be related to by all those who are
involved in the game.
The combination of a centralized reference tool/text
book, interactive web site and dedicated program & service will ultimately maintain the player’s mental
health; addressing underlying illnesses, problems, behaviours and so on. The player’s life is
enhanced, ‘on-field’ performance
optimized, ‘off-field’ behaviour made more acceptable
and the league’s image improved.
Waldel Pty Ltd