Henry to raise awareness as State of Mind ambassador
New Zealand Warriors utility Ben Henry is one of 14 State of Mind ambassadors appointed by the NRL to increase awareness around mental health – one of the country's biggest health issues.
The engagement of elite players is critical in bringing a different attitude to the way mental health is addressed within the community.
"Back in New Zealand I grew up in a family with a lot of brothers and sisters and in a community that had issues they don't bring up and keep to themselves," Henry said.
"I'm passionate about helping people get over certain things in their lives that they're not comfortable talking about."
Mental illness affects one in two people nationally. Rugby league is in a unique position to have a positive impact on mental health by using its profile and players to lead discussion, connect people and help break the silence on what can be a life-threatening matter.
"It's key in terms of the State of Mind program – having someone to talk to. Your parents, people who are close to you and people who you can trust," Henry said.
"Especially in my life to verbalise something - to talk and get my thoughts out in the open, is massive and it helps me.
"I'm hoping to give back to the community. My community has done so much for me and this is a way of giving back."
The State of Mind Ambassadors, who are current NRL squad members, volunteered for the roles because they wanted to make a difference in the area of mental health.
The nomination process took into account; reputation both on and off the field, a desire to contribute to the mental wellness of the community, participation in education in a relevant field and a willingness and capacity to participate in activities outside the club football schedule.
"People don't realise that when you become an NRL player or when you sign a contract with a club there are certain things that come along with that," Henry said.
"The pressure of performing, money, to help around those areas is massive. If younger players understand they are not bullet proof and the more we can talk, the more we can show we all have these issues.
"Just being aware and raising awareness in the community is a step in the right direction.
"Whether you're an NRL player or someone out in the community, anyone can succumb to this sort of pressure. If we can talk about it then it can shed some light on this issue.
"It's important to make it known that it's okay to talk about issues in your life."
All ambassadors will receive Mental Health First Aid training and qualifications, training and support to be able to deliver a mental health program designed by the Black Dog Institute, the opportunity to give back to their community in a meaningful way and become a leader in mental health awareness within their clubs.
The NRL is in coalition with Lifeline, Kids Helpline, Headspace and the Black Dog Institute to implement a number of new initiatives.
For more information visit nrlstateofmind.com.au