You’d be hard up to find a nicer guy in the NRL than Dale Finucane. It’s been written before and definitely will be again, but having people like him in the game makes it easy to be a rugby league fan. Last week the NRL premiered a short video about Dragons forward Joel Thompson about his struggles with mental health, why he sought help, and how he is using his story to help thousands of others through the State of Mind campaign. Dale reacted to Thompson’s video in the same way the rest of us did – with admiration and respect for someone who has not only turned their life around, but has done it in such a positive and public way.
Dale is one of the lucky ones to have not suffered from depression or anxiety, but close loved ones have. I doubt there is a person out there who can claim to be completely unaffected by a mental health issue of various severities. Whether it’s watching a loved one struggle and feeling helpless to ease their burden, being confused by their reactions to innocent situations or seeing their behaviour change over time, it can be just as difficult to experience depression and anxiety from arm’s length. It can be scary to watch a loved one go through something so difficult while feeling powerless to help. Suicide is the largest killer of people aged between 15-44 and the thought of losing a loved one so needlessly is obviously terrifying.
 Telstra Premiership: Dale Finucane
Tackles, Offloads, All Run Metres, Tackle Breaks.
I spoke to Dale this week for a story in Big League. In the two years Dale has been a State of Mind ambassador he has made it his business to learn and be involved as much as he can with the campaign, to help himself and others understand how to help. He says he has received messages from both people he knows and strangers looking for someone to talk to, admitting they are struggling with something in their lives. It makes him proud to be so approachable and to have the tools to be able to point someone in the right direction. It could be lifesaving.
The State of Mind campaign is as close to my heart as anyone who has been affected either personally or indirectly by mental illnesses. I have loved ones who battle every day just to function in the world – sometimes they manage and sometimes they don’t. A good support system is essential, but sometimes it’s easy to forget the ripple affect mental illness can have on family and friendships. When one person struggles, they all do. Even though one in two people are affected by mental illness at some stage of their lives, we all feel it. That’s why we’re all in this together.
It’s comforting to know that no matter how tough and strong these NRL players are, they have the same worries and cares in their relationships. Their lives are more than recovery sessions and massages. They’re real people too.
If I had a hat I’d tip it to people like Dale and Joel, who have taken their own experiences from both sides of the struggle and are turning them into a positive to show us all how it’s done.