In September 2008, my Dad took his own life.
At the time, I was only 10-years-old and didn’t understand the significant battle he was experiencing with mental health and addiction.
Being so young, my thoughts and perception around suicide were non-existent, to be honest.
I didn’t really understand what it was or what it meant – not many 10-year-olds would!
In the 11 years since, awareness and understanding around mental health has shifted significantly with not-for-profit organisations campaigning to reduce the stigma associated with suicide.
Following my dad’s death, my sister started up the WA-based youth mental health and suicide prevention charity called Zero2Hero.
The original purpose behind the organisation was to create awareness and understanding around suicide, as well as prevention.
As Zero2Hero has progressed and grown in its work, its focus has shifted to an all-encompassing view of mental health, focusing on three key areas: educating young people about mental health, mental illness and suicide, engaging young people in conversations about mental health and empower young leaders to become mental health ambassadors.
It works to create awareness in the community by working with young people to help them identify signs of when their friends and peers may be struggling and where they can access support.
When I was experiencing this with my family, I didn’t feel like I had any networks available to me.
My school offered me access to a counsellor, but they only worked one day a week.
As society has progressed, the stigma around mental health has reduced significantly and organisations like Zero2Hero are encouraging people to have open and honest discussions about mental health.
It’s not something to be ashamed of and it doesn’t discriminate – 25 per cent of young people experience a mental health problem in any year.
Having the ability to talk about your own lived experiences, or support those around you, is one of the biggest differences we can make as a community.
Zero2Hero focus on creating safe spaces to have those discussions, particularly for young people, who may not know where else to turn.
Those spaces allow young people to feel comfortable and secure enough to open up about what they, or those around them, may be experiencing without any judgment.
In the AFL this year we’ve seen more players open up and know they’re not alone.
It often takes one person to start a movement. But by having one person put their hand up and say, ‘I’m not alright’, that helps to create a shift.
Being able to donate $5,000 to Zero2Hero through the AFL Players Care program means a lot to my family and I.
To have the support of my teammates and feeling comfortable enough to open up and share my story with the boys helped to create bonds in my first season.
The Players Care initiative reflects how far sport, and the AFL industry, has come.
It is more than a game and players have the ability to make a difference with their platforms and the Players Care initiative showcases that.
It gives me great comfort knowing that my teammates are there for me but also to have them know that they’ve got my support too.
You can learn more about Zero2Hero here.
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).