About a year and a half ago I was experiencing some challenges with my own mental health.
I haven’t actively shared this knowledge with many people, but I want to help break down the stigma around mental health and help normalise what is a very common challenge for many men my age.
Circumstances in my personal life at the time caused me a great deal of stress; a persistent knee injury and my inability to secure a spot in the team were also bubbling below the surface.
Despite my acute awareness that, in the scheme of life, these things were not catastrophic and I had experienced similar feelings in the past, I could still sense my mindset going downhill despite my best efforts.
When my thoughts were going a million miles an hour, things I had previously enjoyed became more difficult.
Things such as going to training, playing games on the weekend, even eating and sleeping all became an effort.
It culminated in me feeling very heavily anxious, and eventually reached a place where I had to make it known to those around me as it was affecting my day to day life.
Days over a three-month period became extremely difficult for me to approach including training or other basic daily tasks, due to the disruption in my mind and racing thoughts.
This then culminated in me thinking about taking time away from football, as I struggled grappling with how to go about managing this confronting experience.
On reflection from a more stable position, I find myself thinking that it all sounds a bit silly and overblown, but I know in myself that at the time and the way I felt it was a significant issue, a genuine struggle and by far the hardest thing I have dealt with in my life.
It took me some time to feel comfortable to begin opening up about what I was going through, and I’ll be forever thankful for the support of my Mum, sister, a few close mates and my partner at the time during this period.
They definitely helped me feel comfortable opening up and seeking the support I needed.
I’ve also had significant support from the AFL Players’ Association and their confidential mental health support network, and the Melbourne Football Club.
It goes to show that mindfulness and providing a safe space to open up is going in a positive direction in sport.
I understand that there are people in the community who find opening up about their mental health challenging, but there is a very positive societal shift at the moment where people can feel more open and honest, and we are moving towards a more supportive culture without the stigma attached that men must suppress these struggles.
That’s why I created Mendl.
Mendl is an apparel brand created with the intention of sparking new conversations around the state of men’s mental health.
We aim to foster a new sense of openness around the issue, breaking down the stigma and normalising the relevant conversations that men need to have to keep them on the right track.
The name itself came from an acronym explaining the brand’s key message – Mending Men’s Mental Health.
With the assistance of long-term friend Mark Losewitz, we set out to create a brand that will help normalise conversations around mental health.
Most importantly, through a network of men who feel comfortable wearing a discreet message on their ‘tees’, it will hopefully act as a reminder that no one ever needs to feel alone.
Hannan (middle) with Neville Jetta (left) and Mendl co-founder Mark Losewitz (right)
Starting Mendl has given me a chance to follow a passion outside of football, and working on Mendl over the past 10 months has given me that opportunity to reflect.
While I haven’t been able to forget what I’ve been through with my own mental health, the experience has served as an important vehicle for me to create change.
I want to help contribute to the growing network where men feel comfortable in verbalising their struggles and create a community that embodies mateship and authenticity. I foresee these elements as key to breaking down the stigma surrounding what has long been a complex issue.
I have also been lucky to have my own friendship group and a strong circle of trust that has supported me on my journey.
Not a lot of my teammates (or people in general) know about my experience with mental health, but having the support of the few people I’ve told has been critical.
People such as Neville Jetta and Christian Petracca have helped me to become more open about my experiences, and they have both been incredibly helpful in sharing the Mendl journey.
I can attest to the fact that Nev is one of the most genuine and down-to-earth people that I’ve met. He’s seen similar experiences before, among those close to him and he made me feel extremely comfortable to open up and talk to him about what I’ve been going through.
That’s the kind of community of men I want Mendl to embody.
We want Mendl to be known throughout the community as a brand that strongly supports mental health, to seek out men who have difficulty verbalising their struggles to hopefully provide them with the hidden handshake, the invisible platform and the known brand that represents support, mateship and authenticity.
Perhaps the recognition of another who wears the Mendl logo will give a moment’s connection, buoying them through the day or maybe it encourages a dialogue.
Perhaps it gives them the motivation to sit down with their best friend to discuss a recent downward trend.
Either way, the importance is with a quiet acknowledgement of a support network of males who seek conversation as a method to calm a busy or struggling mind.
Each month we will also highlight a mental health charity for the great work they’re doing. All of our profits will be donated to assist these groups.
We have long acknowledged and recognised the incredible work that a number of charities are already doing in the mental health sphere in Melbourne and nationally.
Hannan (left) with Mendl co-founder Mark Losewitz (right)
I’m sure a lot of people will say this; but there’s no one fix for mental health.
The process of managing how someone is feeling is unique to each person.
For my own experience, my family are spread throughout Australia and I find a lot of relief in keeping in contact with them regularly.
I still find that when I’m going through the motions of life a little bit aimlessly, it is easy for my mind to wander.
Those are the times I find myself feeling that anxiety again and worrying about things that I probably shouldn’t be.
In times like these I lean on my network of friends and family, and more recently, Mendl has provided a positive distraction. Hopefully in time, the Mendl brand and network can come to similarly provide that support for others too, just like it has for me.
Need Support? If you know someone who requires urgent assistance or support, please contact:
Suicide call back service: 1300 659 467
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
Support for AFL Players: If you are a current or past AFL Player and would like to know more about our specialised wellbeing and mental health services please contact the AFL Players’ Association at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel. 03-8651 4300 (Mon to Fri, 9am – 5pm).