I vividly remember the phone call.
On the way to footy training with the Frankston Dolphins in early 2013, I noticed a few missed calls from one of my mates. After listening to the strange voicemail, I called him back while entering the club’s change rooms.
There is no way to sugar-coat it, our friend Kurt had ended his own life.
I told the coach, jumped in the car and headed to Melbourne for what was the worst drive I have experienced. I spent most of it crying while wondering how my mate could’ve been struggling so much and how I missed it.
I’d only spoken to him a couple of days before, when he seemed his usual knockabout self, but he was clearly battling inside to feel that suicide was his only option.
The lives of Kurt’s family and friends were completely rocked and I was struggling to comprehend losing a friend. Footy was the least of my concerns, although I attempted to get back out on the field, my mind was elsewhere and the game didn’t ease my pain.
Like so many others who cared for Kurt, the following weeks and months presented reminders of him all over the place; drives in the car reminded me of our trip from Darwin to Melbourne when we were 19, and song lyrics raised memories of happier times enjoying life together while boarding at Geelong Grammar. I still get these reminders today.
It wasn’t until I spoke with family and sought some professional help of my own that I began the steady process of moving on. Eventually, my footy got back on track and I somehow found a way to get drafted by the Tigers by the end of the year, something I know my mate Kurt would be proud of, even if he was a Bombers supporter.
Losing a close mate is the hardest thing our friendship group have endured, and a few friends felt the need to do something special to honour Kurt’s memory. In doing so, Jon Taylor, Ollie Robertson and Christian Habla, who were all close to Kurt, started a small gathering as a means get together to talk and play some golf.
Eventually, it evolved into Mood Swing, the registered fundraiser we see today.
Mood Swing is an annual event where more than 140 people get together, play some golf, tennis or do some life drawing followed by a dinner party with some live music and guest speakers in order to raise much needed funds and awareness in the mental health area.
It began in late 2014, where we hosted a fundraiser and donated $11,000 to Smiling Minds, followed by a $20,000 donation to The Black Dog Institute and the Jesuit Society’s Support After Suicide in 2016.
Last year, we were able to raise $30,000 for The Black Dog Institute and Headspace Geelong. We were also lucky enough to receive a $5,000 sum from the Richmond playing group through the AFL Players Care program.
This year, we’re keen to get as many people there as possible. The event will be held on Sunday, February 18 at the beautiful Werribee Park and there’ll be plenty of activities to enjoy.
Mood Swing aims to encourage community connectedness, start conversations about mental illness and wellbeing and raise funds for organisations within the mental health space.
We’d love to see as many faces as possible. While it’s extremely saddening that a close friend had to go through what he did for this great cause to be created, if we can grow and raise some awareness of the battles so many face, that can be Kurt’s legacy.
Mood Swing’s 2018 event will be held on Sunday, February 18 at Werribee Park from 3pm to 10pm. Click here to buy tickets and help bring mental health out of the shadows.
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