North Queensland Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan 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.
"I've been through some times in my life that were hard, I had a very close friend who felt the signs of depression, so it was an opportunity for me to put my hand up and help other people and that's what I want to do," Morgan said.
"I'm not doing it for myself, it's more to help other people."
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 was very close friends with Alex who passed away in 2013. He took his own life back them. At the time I was shocked, no one saw it coming," Morgan said.
"I don't want anyone else to go through what he went through - not only him but his family. It hurts a lot of people and leaves a lot of questions as to why."
"It is hard for a person who is going through something tough to talk to someone when they don't want to. But it's just encouraging them and trying to stay positive. No one needs to go through it on their own."
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.
"When times are hard, talking to someone really does release it. It helps you know that you aren't alone, someone is there to listen it's a weight off your shoulders when you get it all out," Morgan said.
"Life does go on and you have a very long life at that. Time heals everything is one thing I've learnt.
"It's not a problem, people are there to help. It's not a weakness, if anything it is a positive thing."
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
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