Tagataese's State of Mind
Cronulla Sharks forward Sam Tagataese 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.
"It's a good cause and a serious issue that needs to be addressed by everyone, especially NRL clubs," Tagataese said.
"I've had minor depression and when I look back, even though it was minor, it could have grown into a deeper problem for me.
"I just felt like I had to do something, anything, to help out."
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.
"I had a mate I hadn't seen for a while who said he almost took his life," Tagataese said.
"I had to apologise to him. I thought to myself 'where was I?'
"I just told him 'I'm here for you now, just call me whenever'."
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 think that we're big, strong men who can get through anything. But if we're not strong in the mind then we can't control how we feel, we can't control what we do sometimes," Tagataese said.
"Seek help. Family, friends or close relatives. If you don't want to speak with them then there is professional help where everything is kept anonymous."
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