New mental health project targets AFL

Former AFL players and coaches will be the focus of new project aiming to end the stigma of men speaking out about depression and anxiety.

It involves a collaboration between La Trobe University researchers Dr Mandy Ruddock-Hudson  and Dr  Paul O'Halloran  in partnership with the AFL Players Association and Coaches Association.

Dr O'Halloran says football players and coaches face unique challenges when transitioning from the public adoration of an on field sporting career into a more mainstream life – and are often not equipped to emotionally deal with the shock and change.     

This project aims to change that.

Called Real Courage - it's an online campaign that targets ex AFL footballers, coaches and men in the construction industry. It aims to encourage conversation about men's depression and in doing so, provide support and referral for a way to heal.

The project – funded by Beyond Blue - is based on the premise that sharing and hearing real-life stories (via video footage, photography, and the written word) is one of the most powerful ways of reducing self-stigma in communities of men. It hopes to send the message that asking for help is a sign of courage rather than weakness.

An important theme will be friendship and men's stories of supporting their mates who are experiencing depression.

A web-based campaign will be developed to communicate these stories and allow men to share them with others. An expert support group – including Dr O'Halloran and Dr Ruddock-Hudson will provide advice on intervention planning and development.

The La Trobe team will evaluate the effectiveness of the digital campaign in reducing stigma amongst the AFL players and coaches over the coming year.

Watch the introductory video to Real Courage.

Media Contact: Catherine Garrett 9479 6565 / 0418 964 325