Players’ Association General Manager – Player Development, Brett Johnson spoke on radio this morning about the importance of providing support for players experiencing mental health issues.
Speaking on 3AW and MMM Adelaide, Johnson discussed the influence an AFL career can have on a player’s mental health and the support mechanisms that exist for players who need them.
“The pressure to perform and win every week is ever increasing, and it does have an impact,” Johnson told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.
“Mental health is the number one health issue for 15 to 25 year olds and AFL footballers aren’t immune to that.”
Johnson’s comments echoed those made by Essendon coach Mark Thompson on Tuesday night.
“Mental health is the number one health issue for 15 to 25 year olds and AFL footballers aren’t immune to that” – Brett Johnson
“You’d be surprised, there are probably a lot of people who have different degrees of it. Lots of people would have some problems with it,” Thompson said.
“You have to be careful and we are quite conscious of it at our club and wherever I’ve been. People are people – they’re important in this world. They need the love and support and there’s probably not enough of that in this industry.”
There are, however, plenty of support systems available for AFL players.
“We’ve got a national network of clinical psychologists in place, for players to be able to access and obviously clubs have a role to play too,” Johnson said this morning.
“A lot of clubs employ part time psychologists. Irrespective of spend or location, the Players’ Association believes it’s important every player has the same opportunity to access these services.”
Johnson also revealed “about one in eight players utilise the service across the competition.”
It’s important to note though, that many of those are taking proactive steps to look after their mental wellbeing, rather than seeking treatment as a result of a mental illness.
“It’s not about just going to see a psychologist when something’s wrong – it’s also about seeing a psych when you’re doing well as well, so you nip it in the bud before it becomes an issue.
“It’s about being proactive and making sure that players develop skills so that they can deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with playing AFL football.”
Johnson’s interviews can be heard in full, below.