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Five Aussie athletes doing all the good they can for mental health

25 October 2017 Wesley Mission news

It doesn’t take much more than simply skimming news headlines to understand the link between Australian sports and trouble. But if you read past the headlines, you'll find many Australian sports people are actually using their profile for good. This October, being mental health month, we’re sharing five Australian sports stars who are doing all the good they can for mental health.

Caitlin Thwaites

Cailtlin Thwaites

Cool, calm and collected in the goal circle, this Diamonds goal shooter and Australian netballer had no idea she was suffering with anxiety and depression, despite being left hyperventilating and shaking.

"When I did finally get that diagnosis it was a huge relief because it had a name and there was a prognosis," the Collingwood shooter said on Nine's In Her Court podcast.

Amongst the game’s best shooters, Caitlin has sided against advice to step away from netball temporarily. Instead, she is sharing her story to encourage others in their recovery.

Paddy Ryan

Paddy Ryan

Moving from the front row of scrums to the being in front of schools and university, has been a great fit for NSW Waratahs prop, Paddy Ryan. The formidable presence of Paddy, all 120kg of him, in front youngsters, is helping to change the image of what it means to be a ‘tough guy’.

Working as an ambassador for Batyr and a Rugby Union Player’s Association representative, Paddy shared his commitment in a recent interview with Batyr. 

“Mental health is an issue that is close to my heart, it is close to my family and the opportunity arose to go and do a bit of stuff in schools,” the prop said.

“I am not trained to be able counsel anyone, and I sure as hell wouldn’t say I am emotionally really good with that kind of stuff. But I am certainly not ashamed to ask a mate how they’re going.

“That’s all anyone needs to be able to do.”

Dan Hunt

Dan Hunt

A rugby league career spanning nine years and 150 games, Dan Hunt wore the St George Illawarra Red V with pride. Yet beneath the jersey, Dan was masking the pain and confusion surrounding his many and severe mood swings.

Injuries and coaches advice led Dan to seek professional help. Being diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder was a massive relief. Beyond a diagnosis, it was an answer and motivation for life after football.

The then 29-year-old studied at TAFE and Wollongong University and has since worked as a mental health ambassador for St George Illawarra and the NRL. Now a qualified social worker, Dan’s latest step has been establishing the Mental Health Movement. Keen to help others identify the warning signs and find help in their own lives, Dan is holding workshops in teams across the country.

Jason Clark

Jason Clark

Earlier this year, Jackson Clark set out on a trip. Leaving his home in the Northern Territory, he set out to become the first person to play one game of Aussie Rules football in every Australian state and territory. But their was another reason for the trip—campaigning for mental health awareness, especially amongst men, many who will readily discuss footy but not depression.

Speaking with SBS, the 23-year-old shared #ItAintWeakToSpeak about the message of his trip and the ‘Kicking the Stigma’ project.

“As a footballing fraternity, we can do our bit to help those suffering with mental health issues.

“These people should not have to suffer in silence or feel ashamed to speak out and seek help regarding their problems.”

Wayne Schwass

Wayne Schwass

AFL legend, Wayne Schwass, took marks, led his mates and won premierships in a career spanning 14 years. It was after retirement that Wayne shared his experiences of playing football while suffering from depression—proof that depression has no face.

These experiences and a passion to provide support to others led Wayne to launch Puka Up, a new mental health podcast. During the series, Wayne speaks with other high profile athletes, politicians and leaders about their experience with mental health and the impact it had on their work.

Guests include former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Libby Trickett, Osher Gunsberg, Kyle Vander Kuyp, Pat McGorry and Preston Campbell.