Last weekend’s local football fixtures were dedicated to spreading awareness for mental health.
‘How’s Ya Mate?’, an initiative of Lifeline Broken Hill Country to Coast (LLBC2C) in partnership with AFL Broken Hill was the theme for the round eight matches.
LLBC2C invited former professional player Alex Woodward to address players and community members.
He said he was “privileged” to speak and felt “embraced” at a breakfast function and pre-match talks with players on Saturday.
“I’m really fortunate to have spoken to each team,” he said. “I just wanted the boys to know that this round was more than a kick in the park.
“There was a significant reason why they are wearing the jumpers and armbands.”
The initiative helps to spark more conversations about well-being to combat mental illness.
Woodward wanted to help make mental health a priority for locals and erase any stigma.
“It was an underlying message that a conversation could go a long way,” he said.
“Checking in on those that are close to you, your loved ones and making sure that they know it’s OK not to be OK.”
“We don’t want masculine bravado to be at the forefront all the time. I think it’s quite brave to speak about your mental health, especially as a man.”
The guest speaker spent six years playing in the AFL system at Hawthorn, unfortunately suffering three right knee reconstructions.
He moved to Collingwood in the VFL, undergoing another two-right knee reconstructions over three years.
“A lot of adversity but I like to think it’s built my character up to the person I am today,” Woodward said. “We can’t take for granted that we get to play footy with our mates.
“That can easily be taken away in a number of ways. Not necessarily through injury, it could be through mental obstacles as well.”
LLBC2C had a stand at Jubilee Oval to provide information and sell merchandise to help raise funds for its services.
Woodward said he is eager to continue supporting the organisation to prevent suicide.
“We are always going to try and prevent suicide and try and create platforms that are safe and trusting environments for people to open up,” he said.
“I think they are doing an outstanding job in raising funds and making awareness across a number of mental health issues.
“I’ll continue to support it and the more we can spread the message the better.”
For more information and resources, visit www.howsyamate.org.au.