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Rugby League greats tackle mental health

Thursday, 5th May, 2016

Dan Hunt, Jenna Bottrell from Mission Australia, Country Rugby League’s Craig MacLeod and Wayne Wigham at the “Act, Belong, Commit” presentation on Monday night. The ABC program is about educating people on mental wellbeing. Dan Hunt, Jenna Bottrell from Mission Australia, Country Rugby League’s Craig MacLeod and Wayne Wigham at the “Act, Belong, Commit” presentation on Monday night. The ABC program is about educating people on mental wellbeing.

By Patrick Reincke

They may be three simple words, but “Act, Belong, Commit” are breaking down the stigma of mental health problems.

The words lend themselves to a program run through the NSW Department of Sport and Recreation and “encourages individuals to take action to protect and promote their own mental wellbeing”.

Monday night saw a group of 60 people attend the seminar at the Community Centre to learn more about the program.

Former Rugby League players Dan Hunt and Wayne Wigham co-presented the event with both men having struggled with their own mental health problems through life.

“It’s about education and awareness around mental health, it’s about breaking down that stigma,” Mr Hunt said.

“It gives people the confidence to know you’re not alone and putting your hand up doesn’t make you weak.

“It takes a stronger person to ask for help then it does to suffer in silence.

“We are promoting those help-seeking strategies because a lot of those people who are struggling don’t know where to get help, so being able to link them with those resources and those organisations I think is one of the most important things.

“Education is the key, the more we know the more we understand and the more we understand the better choices we can make for ourselves.”

Mr Wigham said that his work with the Black Dog Institute led him to meeting Mr Hunt and inviting him to co-present the program.

He said that his personal battles in his playing days made him want to educate people about the experiences.

“I suffered long term depression myself,” he said.

“I made all the mistakes as a man, I refused to seek help to the point where I attempted suicide.

“Now I realise that if I would have sought help all that time ago, I would have been okay.

“My part in this is just encouraging people to acknowledge that they have an illness, to know that it’s not their imagination and to seek help, don’t put yourself through unnecessary grief.  

What I went through at my age, is the same as what Dan went through.

“It has been around for a long time and it’s good for people to see that it doesn’t matter what age group, where you come from, what your circumstances are, it’s a problem.”

The program visited Wilcannia and Menindee over the past couple of nights and will now head to Bourke and other parts of rural NSW.

“We’re trying to get to as many remote and rural communities as we can,” Mr Wigham said.

“There’s so many people in Broken Hill who care, there are plenty of people who are a part of this.

“These people have put this together; the people in your town have put it together because they care about you.

“You learn about how to help yourself and if not yourself, you will learn to help a friend, family member or someone close to you.”

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