For Carlton ruckman Mathew Lobbe, mental health has been a personal, yet steep learning curve.
At 21 years of age, the 16th selection in the 2007 draft had just experienced the elation of finding out that he would be debuting for Port Adelaide.
However, on the very same weekend, Lobbe found out his 19-year-old brother Tom was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Lobbe opened up to AFLPLayers.com.au about how mental illness has affected his family as part of ‘Courageous Conversations’, a series featuring AFL players talking about mental health, in partnership with the Movember Foundation, aimed at reducing the stigma around mental illness and increasing mental health literacy across the AFL industry and wider community.
When speaking about his brother’s diagnosis, Lobbe said the news was sobering, and caught the former Power player completely off guard.
“My family has gone through some mental health challenges over the last few years. It’s completely changed how I view mental health,” Lobbe said.
“It was just a massive unknown for the family with Tom, but we didn’t know what it was, it was all completely new to us.”
Having to deal with the news of one family member being diagnosed with a mental disorder is hard enough, yet Lobbe had to deal with the sudden diagnosis of his mother suffering from cyclical depression.
Lobbe says the news of his mum suffering from a mental illness was hard to take, given the strength and foundation she had provided the family with for such a long time.
“Mum had cyclical depression, which was three weeks on and three weeks off,” Lobbe said.
“When it started, I was back home in the off-season and it was a big shock to me because mum was always the strong one in the family and one that solved all the problems.”
But the love, strength and support shown by his mum and his brother has helped to change Lobbe’s perspective of mental illness.
The 29-year-old says even the most stable people can be prone to succumbing to terrible mental illnesses.
“Before it happened to my family, I didn’t really have an understanding of mental illness. I probably thought of it as something as a bit of a weakness that only some people got that might’ve not been resilient or not been as tough,” he said.
“Seeing it happen to my brother and my mum who are two of the most resilient people I know, shows that it can happen to anyone.”
When wondering what to do with someone who may be down or seem different from their usual self, Lobbe says the answer is to talk and be open to how people were feeling.
Lobbe also paid tribute to how his mum was able to open up to those around her to explain how she was feeling during her illness.
“A lot of the conversations she had in asking people for help were really courageous ones I admired that I would’ve found really hard to do,” Lobbe said.
“My message is about being open not just to the people that may be feeling something themselves, but to friends and family, to not shut people down and listen to them.
“The more we can talk about mental health, the easier it’s going to be for people going through something.”
To highlight how the definition of courage has evolved in the players’ eyes, the AFL playing group has made the decision to expand the selection criteria for the AFL Players’ Most Courageous Award, presented by the Movember Foundation, to ensure that courageous off-field acts are recognised alongside on field actions.
The players have also donated $60,000 to the Movember Foundation through the AFL Players Care program. The money will support men’s mental health initiatives and assist the foundation to reach its 2030 goal to reduce the rate of male suicides by 25 per cent.
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