Jake, whose depression led to him attempting to take his own life in 2014, spoke about recognising the symptoms of mental-health struggles early and having a ‘go-to’ person to approach about it. “There’s nothing wrong with having an idea as to who you would speak to first if you ever felt things were getting tough mentally,” he told students.
The panel discussion was part of La Trobe University’s commitment to look after the wellbeing of its students.
Dr Paul O’Halloran, from La Trobe’s School of Psychology and Public Health, said reducing the stigma of opening up about depression was a key part of the healing process. “Events such as this can save lives, so they are incredibly worthwhile,” he said.
Andrew Thorp, from beyondblue which will be in the spotlight at tomorrow night's AFL match between Hawthorn and Sydney, said that there are eight suicides per day in Australia and seven of them are males.
Paul explained that females are just as likely to be depressed as males but they are much better conditioned to deal with the issue. “Females are more likely to talk about things to friends and open up early, which is a vital step.”
Brad Fisher, from the AFL Players’ Association which works closely with players experiencing change – such as country or interstate kids getting drafted or ex-players adjusting to life after football – says having faith in your mates is a vital part of mental wellbeing.
Brad, who played with Jake at Carlton in 2008, said he would have loved it if Jake had opened up to him at any time about his worries over his mental-health in those six years up to 2014. “Jake was a great mate, always happy to help me with anything including moving house. I wouldn’t have seen it as weakness for him to say how he was struggling. I just would have been really pleased that he felt our trust and friendship was strong enough for him to ask for some help, support or advice.”
Nick, who played over 300 games for St Kilda and North Melbourne, went from moderator to concerned friend when he said that some of his AFL contemporaries were struggling with life after football. “What can I do – because I want to be able to do something,” he asked.
Students at the panel discussion also asked what they could do for friends they were concerned about.
The panellists all said that males struggle with face-to-face conversations about serious issues, so it is good to have a side-by-side chat, whether that is in the car, on a walk or while playing golf, tenpin bowling or pool socially.
“While you are ready to have that chat, just remember that your friend might not be,” said Jake. “If that’s the case, let them know that you will be ready to listen whenever they might want to talk.”
Jake also opened up about some of the techniques he uses to cope with depression. “Try and identify three things that make you happy and regularly make them part of your day. For me, it is family, music and sport.”
Students from La Trobe University’s Communication and Media Department filmed the panel discussion, so that fellow students can catch up with the important insights discussed at the event.
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