Leading NRL referees Ben Cummins and Matt Cecchin will join a total of 13 new NRL State of Mind ambassadors supporting the game's State of Mind mental health program.
New ambassadors alongside Cummins and Cecchin include Anthony Milford, Trent Merrin, Josh Dugan and Sam Bremner, taking the total number of ambassadors across NRL Clubs, the Jillaroos and for the first time, referees, to 30.
The announcement of 13 additional ambassadors coincides with World Health Day today, with this year’s theme focussed on talking about depression.
The NRL's State of Mind program is in its third year and aims to:
- increase mental health literacy amongst clubs and communities, from grassroots to the elite level
- stimulate help seeking behaviours
- reduce stigmas around mental illness and suicide
- develop elite players and officials to be advocates of positive mental health
The program is backed by expert health partners Kids Helpline, The Black Dog Institute, headspace, Lifeline and New Zealand based organisation, LeVa.
NRL Head of Government and Community Relations, Jaymes Boland-Rudder said the new ambassadors had all self-nominated to be part of the State of Mind program, that supports players, coaches, fans and the wider community at all levels of the game.
"Many of our NRL State of Mind ambassadors have personal stories that will resonate with community members and help highlight the importance of reaching out for support in difficult times," Mr Boland-Rudder said.
"The NRL is committed to working with the rugby league family and broader community to address the serious mental health challenges Australia is currently facing.
"Our ambassadors deserve to be commended for sharing their stories and using their profile in the community to reduce stigmas associated with mental illness."
The NRL and State of Mind ambassadors and expert partners have already committed to delivering education and awareness programs to more than 130 grassroots clubs across Australia and New Zealand, with additional club visits planned.
RLPA CEO Ian Prendergast applauded additional voices within the game to support players and communities.
"Mental health and wellbeing is a significant part of our game and the NRL State of Mind program provides support across all levels of rugby league," Mr Prendergast said.
"It is positive to see more and more players and now referees involved in a movement to look out for one another, as well as family and friends, and seek help at any time."
All NRL State of Mind ambassadors receive ongoing support and training, including undertaking a Mental Health First Aid Certificate.
For further information on the NRL State of Mind program, head to nrlstateofmind.com.au
2017 NRL State of Mind ambassadors
Ben Cummins – NRL Referee*
Matt Cecchin – NRL Referee*
Ruan Sims – Harvey Norman Jillaroos
Sam Bremner – Harvey Norman Jillaroos*
Anthony Milford – Brisbane Broncos*
Darius Boyd – Brisbane Broncos
Moses Mbye – Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Iosia Soliola- Canberra Raiders*
Sam Tagataese – Cronulla Sharks
Joseph Paulo – Cronulla Sharks
Eddy Pettybourne – Gold Coast Titans*
Dale Copley – Gold Coast Titans*
Brenton Lawrence – Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Dale Finucane – Melbourne Storm
Dane Gagai – Newcastle Knights
Josh Starling – Newcastle Knights
John Asiata – North Queensland Cowboys*
Michael Morgan – North Queensland Cowboys
Jeff Robson – Parramatta Eels
Suaia Matagi – Parramatta Eels
Trent Merrin – Penrith Panthers*
Luke Kelly – South Sydney Rabbitohs
Dave Tyrrell – South Sydney Rabbitohs
Josh Dugan - St George Illawarra Dragons*
Joel Thompson - St George Illawarra Dragons
Tariq Sims - St George Illawarra Dragons
Simon Mannering- New Zealand Warriors*
Toafofoa Sipley – New Zealand Warriors*
Jordan Rankin - Wests Tigers*
Matt Ballin – Wests Tigers
* denotes new ambassadors