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The Mental Health Minefield

June 04, 2019

Mental Health is a minefield both for the person going through it and their family. It affects more people than we know and it cannot be seen. 

Unfortunately, this past weekend we lost a friend of the Australian Gridiron Community.  He was a husband, father and a lover of sports.  He played AFL, spending time with the Sydney Swans and the Collingwood Magpies, before going on to punt for the Connecticut Huskies. 

His passing has been a shock to many and has prompted the compiling of the article that follows. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Adam Coles.  May his memory be eternal and may he rest in peace.

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In Australia, it's estimated that 45 percent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.  In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety.


It’s an expression we use every day, so it might surprise you that the term ‘mental health’ is frequently misunderstood.  ‘Mental health’ is often used as a substitute for mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety conditions, schizophrenia, and others.

Mentally healthy individuals realises their own potential, are able to cope with daily stresses and fully participate in family, work, sport, leisure, and community activities. A mental disorder is a diagnosable illness that affects a person’s thinking, emotional state, and behaviour, and disrupts their ability to carry out normal daily activities or engage in satisfying personal relationships.

Understanding the causes of mental/emotional stress, learning coping skills, and developing emotional and social support networks can help any individual build resilience and deal with stressful situations.

Mental health issues can affect everybody:

  • Children (aged 0–12) - Childhood is a time of rapid development. The experiences we have during childhood help to shape the adults we will become.
  • Young people (aged 12 - 24) -  We know everyone faces challenges in their life – that’s normal, but for some young people, feelings of sadness and anxiety begin to interfere with their life. If the feelings last for longer than a few weeks and change the way a person spends their time, this can be anxiety or depression.
  • Men - Men are known for bottling things up. But when they are feeling down, taking action to call in extra support or talk to a mate is something they struggle to do.
  • Women - Women are known for putting others first. But when it comes to their health it is important that they prioritise their own needs and speak up when they need support.
  • Older People - Depression is common throughout the Australian population, and older people are more likely to experience contributing factors such as physical illness or personal loss.


Depression is more than just a low mood – it's a serious condition that affects your physical and mental health.  While we all feel sad, moody or low from time to time, some people experience these feelings intensely, for long periods of time (weeks, months or even years) and sometimes without any apparent reason.

Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but for someone experiencing anxiety, these feelings aren't easily controlled.  Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where we feel under pressure, they usually pass once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed.  Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don't go away – when they're ongoing and happen without any particular reason or cause. It’s a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia and in a 12-month period, over two million Australians experience anxiety.  On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life.


In a country obsessed with sport, growing up in Australia often goes hand-in-hand with playing some kind of team sport. Through primary school and early secondary school, team sports are taught in Physical Education classes and a love for a particular sport often means an early Saturday morning wake up call for whoever is on driving duty for that week’s match.

Unfortunately however, many people in Australia stop playing team sports past their schooling years.

While Australia is a nation that undoubtedly loves sport – we are also one that loves winning. Sport can often be treated as a contest that must be won. Unsurprisingly, when someone considers themselves not particularly ‘good’ at the sport, they might feel compelled to walk away.

The physical benefits of playing sport are well known. Exercise can build stronger bones and muscles, help manage your weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease.  In recent years, research has also found that sport participation, particularly team sport participation can positively affect your mental health.

The benefits include:

  • Improved mood
  • Improved concentration
  • Reduced stress and depression
  • Improved sleep habits
  • Sports help you maintain a healthy weight
  • Sports have been linked to leadership traits
  • Team sports teaches you how to deal with setbacks.

From a different perspective, athletes, who obviously already engage in physical activity, are regularly challenged by stressful events related to their sport participation, and these may occur on top of daily life stresses. One’s ability to ‘bounce back’ to a normal state of functioning, following exposure to stress, is a predictor of good mental health. Benefits for athletes are as follows:

  • Physical activity stimulates a biochemical response in the brain that influences one’s mental state. Regular physical activity, in appropriate amounts, contributes to personal well being.
  • Sport, recreation, and physical activity can promote and encourage social interaction, which supports good mental health.
  • Athletes are subjected to sport specific stressors, as well as stress from everyday life. Good mental health is characterised by emotional well-being and resilience to all sources of stress.
  • An athlete's state of mind has a significant impact on their athletic performance and vice versa.
  • Diagnosis and care of an athlete’s mental health concerns must be considered within the context of sport and life.

The pros of participating in sports are plentiful — from the advantages they provide to young children to the proven link to mental health and happiness, and of course the endorphins they trigger.


Mental health is just as important as physical health.  There are many organisations that offer support for mental health issues and suicide prevention.

If something is troubling you PLEASE speak to someone!  It's time to break the stigma that surrounds mental health issues.  Reach out, speak out and remember you are not alone!

#ruok #reachout #speakout #youarenotalone #breakthestigma #mentalhealthawareness #beyondblue #theblackdog