HEADSPACE Wonthaggi welcomed four North Melbourne Football Club players last week, to talk about reducing the stigma around mental health.
Luke McDonald, Marley Williams, Jasper Pittard and Taylor Garner visited the centre on Wednesday.
Young people and headspace staff joined the players at headspace Wonthaggi, including members of the centre’s Youth Advisory Group (YAG).
The YAG contributes to the delivery at headspace Wonthaggi and advises on and advocates for the needs of young people in the community.
The players were given a tour of the centre by headspace Wonthaggi community engagement officer Kris Cousins, who talked about the importance of the mental health support services for young people in South Gippsland and Bass Coast areas.
The players then talked to young people about their experiences in football, including how they manage some of the challenges that arise when playing an elite sport and the importance of seeking help when needed.
“You shouldn’t feel shame in removing yourself from social media if you find it becoming addictive or you start seeing it as a negative platform,” said Luke.
The visit included a morning tea and the opportunity for attendees to ask players questions.
The players elaborated on their experiences when facing a loss and finding a balance between the game and their personal lives.
“Our club has shown us that it’s okay to focus on your personal development, and if I can give any advice to my younger self it would be to just enjoy the day to day of being a kid,” said Jasper.
YAG member Liam Sierakowski said he was impressed at how the footballers spoke so openly about mental health and the support that the North Melbourne Football Club provides to players.
“The players talked about how they manage a large social following, how it can affect their mental health and the assistance they seek through their club psychologist,” said Liam.
The players also talked a lot about how the club has changed over the last five years regarding being open about their feelings and not bottling their emotions.
“After the recent matter with our midfielder, Majak Daw, we are definitely more open to talk, whether it be to each other or a professional,” said Jasper.
“I’ve had a ten-year career in football and can manage my nerves before a big game, but some new players become overwhelmed and that’s okay.
“If you’re feeling nervous in a situation, it’s best to find your own coping mechanism.”
The players also discussed their personal lives and their future career paths after retirement from the AFL.
Headspace Wonthaggi centre manager, Cate Chaiyot said: “The visit helped emphasise the importance of young people looking after their mental and physical health.
“We heard professional football players talk about challenges that they face, the strategies they use for self-care, and importantly that it’s okay to ask for help from your support network,” said Cate.
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