Lawrence embraces State of Mind
Manly prop Brenton Lawrence says he took on the role of NRL State of Mind Ambassador because he feels it's his job as a senior player and leader to assist others in the sport of rugby league in the area of mental health awareness.
"I decided to take on the role because I do think it's an important cause, it's an important initiative," Lawrence told NRL.com.
"On a personal level as probably a more senior player I've already taken on that leadership role and this is just something else that is going to assist within the game."
Like the 13 other NRL State of Mind Ambassadors, Lawrence has completed a mental health first aid course, which he said was partly aimed at helping to identify at-risk players and implementing ways to help them, then using strategies to try and assist players that might be at risk in any way.
"It was important for me to get involved because I wanted to be someone who could help but I didn't really know how to go about that. Having taken on the State of Mind ambassador role it's great that I can learn more about that then filter that down more effectively," he said.
Lawrence said the stigma surrounding mental illness seems to be fading because not that long ago it was something that just wasn't spoken about, but now it's becoming more prevalent for players to talk about their feelings more comfortably and openly.
"You're always going to have people with their own individual concerns and their own issues but in general it is definitely talked about a bit more.
"The younger fellas that are growing up are coming into a society that knows it's okay to talk about anything that's bothering you, you don't have to bottle it up. No-one's going to think any less of you."
Young players trying to make their way in the NRL are under constant pressure to perform and succeed, and while Lawrence is a believer that having those stresses in life is important to mature as a person it is also critical to be able to identify when depression can be taking hold of someone.
"It's something that's important to know more about and I guess that's why I'm getting involved," he said.
"Learning more about conditions that are out of people's hands and how depression can take a hold of someone, it really does go into their state of mind. It's a medical condition that people are really struggling with and the worst thing is not knowing why."
Lawrence said it is common to come across other players under stress or experiencing anxiety, and it's important to be able to identify the difference between depression and someone just having a bad day.
"We talk about depression as not being able to get out of your state of mind for a period of over two weeks; you can have a bad season or a bad couple of months where nothing seems to be too happy for longer than a couple of weeks. It can be a bit of grey there in identifying what is depression and what is just not having a good time at the moment.
"If you can help someone by just knowing a bit more then I think it's worth the time."
Mental health can be a very personal thing and Lawrence said it is a challenge for society as a whole to identify when it's time to intervene and when it's time to let people be themselves.
"That's probably the main reason I wanted to get involved, because I think it's very important to identify and just as important to not misinterpret depression and anxiety," he said.
"Sometimes it's a sickness, not just an emotion, it's identifying the difference and helping where you can. We're not psychologists, we're State of Mind ambassadors, we need to lead people in the right direction and ensure we as a rugby league community are a healthy happy bunch."
For more information go to nrlstateofmind.com.au