'Kick Off'
 'Tackling Mental Health for Rugby League'
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 Kick Off...Mental Health for Rugby League

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Mental Health information, facts & statistics

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

Mental health is defined as a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. (The World Health Report. 2001. Mental Health: New understanding, new hope. Geneva: World Health Organisation.)

Mental illness or disorder - is a diagnosable illness that significantly interferes with an individual's cognitive, emotional and/or social ability. There are different types of mental disorders, eg. depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance use disorder and these different disorders may all occur with different degrees of severity.  (Commonwealth Department of Health & Aged care. 2000. National Action Plan for Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention for Mental Health. Canberra, ACT: Mental Health and Special Programs Branch, Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

Mental Health Problems - occur often as a result of life stressors. Mental health problems also have a negative impact on a person's cognitive, emotional and social abilities but may not meet the criteria for an illness. The distincition between mental health problems and mental disorders is not well defined and is made on the basis of severity and duration of symptoms. Ibid

Mental health may affect a person's ability to interact successfully with their family, friends, work-mates and the broader community. It can cause significant distress and disability, and can lead to isolation of, and discrimination against, those affected.

People with a mental health disorder may not be able to fully participate in the labour force. This has individual imapcts in terms of the person's income, social participation and self-esteem, and also has wider economic impacts. The annual cost of mental illness in Australia has been estimated at $20 billion, which includes the cost of lost productivity and labour force participation. In 2003, mental disorders were identified as the leading cause of healthy years of life lost to disability.

In 2007, 45% of Australians aged 16 - 85 years (7.3 million people) had, at some point in their lifetime, experienced at least one of the selected mental disorders (anxiety, mood or substance use disorders). Since relatively many more men than women meet the criteria for a substance use disorder (often alcohol-related) at some stage, men were more likely than women to have had a mental disorder in their lifetime.

Anxiety disorders generally involve feelings of tension, distress or nervousness. In 2007, anxiety disorders were the most common mental disorders, affecting 14% of all people aged 16 - 85 yrs.

Mood disorders (also known as affective disorders), such as depression, dysthymia and bipolar affective disorder, affected 6.2% of people aged 16 - 85 yrs. The rate was higher for those aged 16 - 44 years (7.6%). Depression and dysthymia may involve signs such as a depressed mood, loss of self- confidence and esgteem, and reduced energy or activity over a period of at least 2 weeks.

The harmful use of alcohol and other drugs is an issue that has many negative effects for individuals, their families and friends, and the wider community. Substance use disorders were more common in men (7.0%) and more likely for those aged 16 - 24 years (13%), and were the most prevalent disorders for males of this age (15%). Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Social Trends, March 2009; Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (2008) Australia's Health 2008; World Health Organisation, 'International Classification of Diseases'. 2008.

Kick Off & Rugby League 

Depression and suicide continue to plague our society. Increasingly prevalent and making no distinction between the various socio-economic groups, depression is fast becoming our greatest debilitating and costly ailment. Statistics indicate that by the year 2020, depression will be the number two illness in the world. One (1) in five (5) people is struck with a mental illness and one (1) in two (2) will know someone with a mental illness.


The statistics are alarming, as is the financial burden to the economy, though the human cost and the tragedy of a largely preventable illness is far more serious. It requires affirmative action and strategies to adequately, efficiently and altruistically deal with the issues that provide the precursors and precipitants to depressive illnesses. We as a society have the responsibility to ensure human life remains sacred and is preserved. To allow depression to overtake an individual and for it to, possibly, ultimately lead to the taking of one’s life is a travesty.


The prevalence of depression & suicide among the young is disturbing. Depression and suicide among the male population is similarly worrying and certainly showing no signs of abating. Traditional methods and approaches have proved somewhat successful; though have done little to reduce the incidence.


Similarly, drug and alcohol abuse is increasing. The effect of this abuse is also costly in all respects. Drug & alcohol abuse can be linked to an underlying depressive illness, particularly in the high risk groups such as youth and males. Drugs & alcohol are largely depressants by nature and will only serve to exacerbate any symptoms of depression within an individual.


As stated previously, depression and suicide transcends all barriers, be they race, gender, age, socio-economic status etc. High performance sportsmen & women are not immune from the ravages of depression, no matter their profile, financial status or standing in the community. As has been clearly reported and documented in recent times, successful business people, politicians, musicians and artists and those in the sporting arena have succumbed to depression. Some have taken their own lives.


With each program and/or treatment modality chosen to address the issues relating to depression, the focus is not always as target group specific as could be. A generic approach has tended to look at the broader aspects of the illness and the solutions possible. As a consequence, there are certain groups that are oft times forgotten or neglected. It would bode us well to develop programs and strategies for these specific areas.


As such, this program has been developed to address issues relating to depression and suicide and the identifiable risk factors and potential precipitants to depression within the Rugby League fraternity.


This program is specifically designed to meet the needs of the Rugby League player and provides a service for the various Rugby League organizations and clubs that has hitherto not existed.


Rugby League players experience the same emotions and demonstrate the same frailties that affect each individual human being. They are no different, despite their profile and sporting achievements. As such, they are requiring of the same compassion and attention that applies to all other groups within our society.


The multiple stressors that apply to those within the sporting community can contribute significantly to the development or exacerbation of a depressive illness. In fact, it would be prudent to focus on these individuals due to these very serious stressors they are confronted with. A Rugby League player can experience issues such as the transition through adolescence, given the increasingly young ages of contracted players. They are of a higher profile than the general populace at large and come under more scrutiny being in the public eye. There are also the expectations from family, friends, clubs, public, sponsors and themselves. The access to, and availability of, recreational drugs and alcohol creates even more pressures. All of these factors can contribute to the development of depression or other mental illnesses. It affects them, not only personally, but their families, their relationships and can have an adverse effect on their sporting performances. The result of neglecting or ignoring signs & symptoms of depression can have lifelong consequences.


As within the general community, the financial cost of depression is measurable by lost productivity. The same applies to the Rugby League arena. Performance will suffer when a player experiences depression or any other mental illness. Drugs & Alcohol are similarly detrimental to performance and, as stated before, can be as a consequence of an underlying depressive illness or other mental health manifestation.


It is envisaged that this program will continue to develop and grow and be embraced by the various Rugby League entities. It is unique in its approach and target group specific. The program is based around a multidisciplinary team comprising professional clinicians with many years experience and has been formulated using an eclectic and holistic approach in it’s functioning and purpose.




©2008 Waldel Pty Ltd

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Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., FICPP
Senior Psychologist/Director
ADC Psychological Services, PLLC
1728 Broadway, Suite 1
Hewlett, NY 11557







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