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SUNS help shine a light on mental health

More than 30 community coaches from the Townsville region had the opportunity to hear firsthand from Gold Coast SUNS coach Stuart Dew about the value he places on building the skills to understand, recognise and manage mental health issues in his players.

Dew invited these volunteers into the SUNS inner sanctum for a special briefing the day before the Round 13 clash with St Kilda as part of their involvement in the Tackle Your Feelings program, which is a partnership between the AFLCA, AFLPA and Zurich Insurance.

“As coaches, if you know your players well you can see those subtle shifts and then it’s about referring them to the experts,” Dew said.

“Sometimes it’s just about them offloading what’s happening and you may not have the answers but then talking about gets them starting to feel safer and better. Depression or anxiety is not like a hamstring, you can’t see it happen.

“Some players are quite resilient and even they don’t know what they are dealing with.”

Twenty-four hours earlier the community coaches had completed the Tackle Your Feelings face-to-face module in a function room overlooking Riverway Stadium.

“The aim is to socialise key things like the mental health continuum, give them some common language and get them thinking about some of the signs and symptoms of mental health,” AFLPA Psychologist Matt McGregor said.

“I hope the coaches walk away feeling like they can have an impact, that mental health certainly can be a part of a coaches skill set and they can engage with their players and provide a great environment and safe haven to talk.”

The mixture of junior, youth and senior coaches in attendance spoke to the importance of the football club within the broader community and recognised they were uniquely placed to have conversations about mental health.

“Hopefully we can get an understanding of warning signals and how to approach people with possible mental health issues and know where we can direct them to services to help them deal with it,” Eric Jackson, Northern Beaches SUNS, said.

As a part of this partnership between Tackle Your Feelings and Gold Coast SUNS in Townsville, a key academy and fan zone for the SUNS, the community coaches received tickets to the game to cap off their experience.

“People that are playing footy or any sport are going to be going through the same things as everyone else, so to have coaches and administrators around the youth of today that can recognise any mental health issues and help them through that it important,” Gold Coast GM of Consumer and Community, Jane McGough, said.

“The SUNS place a high priority on the development of both junior and senior football players, coaches and administrators on the Gold Coast and Northern Rivers and in North Queensland, and this program forms a key part of this.”

Tackle Your Feelings is a program that aims to give community coaches the tools to understand, recognise and manage mental health issues. Visit tackleyourfeelings.org.au to learn more.