The Vodafone Warriors have made significant strides in helping to lift awareness of mental illness by hosting an NRL mental health first aid seminar this week.
Staff representatives from the club as well as from Auckland Rugby League, New Zealand Rugby League and local clubs were in attendance to improve their mental health knowledge for the benefit of the rugby league community.
Dr Jioji Ravulo, a mental health specialist from the University of Western Sydney, led the workshop on the NRL’s behalf.
“The idea of the course is to raise awareness and increase what we call mental health literacy,” said Dr Ravulo.
The social work professor provided the attendees with an overview of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis and substance use disorders.
“We want people to have a better understanding of these illnesses but then to also have the right skills to respond,” said Dr Ravulo.
“That’s why we call it a first aid course.”
Vodafone Warriors welfare and education manager Jerry Seuseu is passionate about addressing the issue and found the seminar invaluable.
“We want to equip all our staff and ensure there are enough people around to respond properly,” said Seuseu.
“We’re working closely with the NRL to fashion new programmes like this going forward.”
NRL senior welfare and education manager Paul Heptonstall was on-hand for the seminars, in which 200 rugby league personnel have already been trained.
“Having staff doing this is gold as they will have greater empathy and a sharper eye to notice changes in people,” said Heptonstall.
“The game is investing in this because we know it’s so important. There’s not one bad thing that will come out of this.”
Heptonstall’s division of the NRL has been leading an active stance on the issue, first by working to de-stigmatise the issue through campaigns such as ‘State of Mind’, which encourages players to speak out and ask for help.
The NRL is also empowering and educating its personnel through seminars such as the one held this week and is engaging providers of support to both treat and prevent the onset of illness.
The prevalence of the issue and the need to keep addressing it was underlined this week with the announcement that Newcastle Knights and Queensland Origin star Darius Boyd was being admitted into a clinic to seek treatment for depression.
Boyd’s admission followed revelations in May this year that Penrith’s Jamal Idris had been battling mental difficulties.
Recently-retired Vodafone Warrior Jerome Ropati also sat in on this week’s seminar and was able to speak first-hand about how much of a challenge mental illness can be for players.
“The type of situations that an NRL player goes through on a daily basis leaves them at risk of having a mental illness,” said Ropati.
“Some players who I’ve played with have gone through depression and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The illnesses are very hard to detect but I really like how I’m learning how to identify them.
“I think there are going to be more cases like Darius Boyd coming out but with programmes like this the league is on top of it.”
For more information on the NRL’s State of Mind initiative, go to www.nrlstateofmind.com.au
For more information the Mental Health First Aid program, go to https://mhfa.com.au/