Dowling's brave stance to speak out

He has lent his voice to a charity to raise awareness of mental health issues in men but it is days like today that Jamie Dowling wonders whether he is being heard at all.

Last weekend the Gold Coast rugby league community lost another young man in Chris Kitching, bringing back painful memories of the day that Dowling lost his good friend Dwayne Lally less than two years ago.

On Sunday the Burleigh Bears awarded Tyler Chadburn the Hayden Butler Medal in honour of another Burleigh boy gone too soon, passing away in February after linking with the Mackay Cutters in the pre-season.

NRL breaks the silence on mental health

Dowling's pain stems not simply from the loss of a mate but from knowing their heartache, knowing their sense of helplessness before he thankfully began to confide in friends and family about his own issues.

Now bursting with pride at becoming a father to daughter Willow in the past week, the Titans centre is in a place in his life where he can talk about his struggles as a way of helping others to overcome theirs.

Lally's passing in September 2013 led to Dowling's good friends Casey Lyons and Sam Webb to start LIVIN, a registered charity aligned with beyondblue that is endeavouring to spread the mantra that "it ain't weak to speak".

Their clothing range is worn regularly by the likes of Nate Myles, Greg Bird, Daly Cherry-Evans and Alex Glenn (below) and while the message is spreading, there are moments when it fails to reach those that need it the most.

Showing bravery that goes far beyond the first hit-up from a kick-off, Dowling spoke with NRL.com about why he is so passionate about the cause and how it has affected him on a personal level.

"As rugby league players everyone thinks you've got to be tough and it's not always great to show your weaknesses," says Dowling at the Titans' Pizzey Park base.

"You don't have to tell everyone about it but it's definitely important to go and see the club doctor or just someone.

"For me personally, it started off a little bit before Dwayne, family-related stuff. After Dwayne happened it hit me in a big way, made me question a lot of things. I was on medication for 6-12 months and that helped me a bit but... struggled a little bit with it.

"After Dwayne I was more inclined to talk about it because I saw what had happened and what affect it has on everyone. So I was talking to all my mates and it was really good, they kept me going.

"The biggest thing for me was staying busy, keeping myself busy. It was when I was sat at home doing nothing or I couldn't do anything, that's when I would sit there and start thinking bad things. That was probably the hardest thing."

Just months after losing one of his closest friends Dowling tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first minute of Burleigh's first game of the 2014 season.

He was encouraged by then Titans coach John Cartwright to leave rugby league behind and take a month off but given his struggles Dowling knew how important it was for him to stay busy.

He threw himself into his rehabilitation and also devoted time to help spread the LIVIN message.

"With me, when I first did [the ACL], I had to keep training to keep my mind ticking over. That was a big thing for me," says the 24-year-old. "'Carty' said to me at the time to go and have four weeks off and get away on a holiday but I just wanted to stay and do my rehab because it keeps me ticking over. Doing my physical activity kept my mind going.

"Once you get talking to people you start to realise how many people it affects. The boys have had a lot of support from a lot of high profile people wearing the merchandise, getting the name out there, and then people ask what LIVIN is about and they get on the website and Instagram page and read what it's about.

"The first day they brought out the shirts, we went out to breakfast and people came up straight away asking, 'What's this LIVIN about?'

"I caught up with Sammy down at Burleigh Point a couple of weeks ago and a bloke came up to us and asked what's LIVIN about and we told him about it.

"He's in the crane industry and he said he'd had blokes come up to him at work and talk to him about suicide and it's obviously affected people that he knows at work."

Dowling was reluctant to discuss the circumstances surrounding Kitching's passing over the weekend but seemed deeply hurt that there was another person – another former schoolmate and teammate – that they couldn't help.

But he is an example himself as to how you can develop and grow as a person simply by starting a conversation.

"I can tell my mum anything," Dowling says. "Before I was probably a bit reluctant to go and tell mum or dad or my grandad or my nan but they've been with me through a lot of challenging times.

"They've always picked me up and helped me through it so I know I can go and tell them anything and they'll pick me up.

"It's definitely helped my relationship with my partner Julia. We always talk about how we're feeling.

"I'm not sure if it will help me being a parent but I'll always encourage my kids to talk about how they're feeling and if they are feeling down to come and talk to me, talk to their mum."

Click here to find out more about LIVIN. 

If you need help call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.