Boyd helping himself by helping others
When Darius Boyd walked out of a mental health facility in 2014 it was with a determination to help both himself and others.
Four years down the track the Broncos captain has achieved both of those goals and is now leading the way in Brisbane with his own work in the mental health space, which has led to him receiving a nomination as a candidate for the NRL's prestigious Ken Stephen Medal.
The 31-year-old initiated his own regular half-day resilience workshops that he has run in several schools and reached over 300 Indigenous students. The workshops deal with the all too real issue of depression and mental health and outline strategies for coping with adversity.
Boyd realised the need for personal change in his own outlook when he was at Newcastle and put his hand up to seek help, both keys to a healthy mind and life for those battling with depression and mental health challenges.
Why did he start down this path?
In 2014 Boyd, an admitted introvert, did not like the man he had become.
He was withdrawn, sad and fixated on rugby league. The Knights were struggling and his own form wasn't the best. Just the thought of facing fans darkened his mood even more. The serious spinal injury to close friend injury to Alex McKinnon devastated him. There were many factors all funnelling in and he was in a dark place and no fun to be around.
When his wife Kayla left him for a short time he realised he needed to change.
He sought help and now is at the forefront of helping others.
"I think sometimes it is more beneficial for me than it is for the people I am talking to," Boyd said of his work with the resilience workshops.
"It is good therapy to get things off your chest and good to feel like you are giving back in the community and helping others.
"Along the way if I am helping someone else in their struggles or giving them a few tips they can use to get through difficult times in their own lives, than that is a good thing."
Boyd has received feedback from schools that his work has been helpful to students who had asked for and implemented some of his advice.
"It is not good to hear that they are struggling but it is a pleasing sign to hear that they feel comfortable enough to ask for help, and that they want to get help," he said.
"We all go through challenges. Life is a rollercoaster with its ups and downs, good times and bad. When we struggle and we are down we can all get stuck in our own heads and think the worst.
"We all need support and help and we need people or things to get us through, but it is all about bouncing back as quickly as possible so instead of having a back month or week it is a bad day or even hour. That is the key message.
"When I got out of the clinic I had a few goals and one was to get out in the community and help others, and have a greater purpose than just myself and rugby league. Rugby league was the be-all and end-all for me, so that if I didn't play well or things weren't going well then life was kind of over for me."
Boyd is also blazing a trail at the Broncos as a facilitator of a regular group check-in system that monitors the mental health of the Brisbane playing group.
"We get in five or six groups and check in on how we are so that if anyone isn't feeling the greatest we know why. Then we are all there to help each other," he said.
"It was Jason Demetriou's idea and I really liked it, especially with all the work I am doing around thoughts, feelings and emotions and mental health. After that Jason, myself and our welfare officer put it together."
Boyd took small steps just reaching out to the community four years ago, and explained how the breadth and scope of his work in mental health had expanded over time.
"I started off all small and went back to my high school at Palm Beach Currumbin and my junior club the Mudgeeraba Redbacks and did some work with them more around rugby league, drills and signing autographs," he said.
"Then my first year back at Brisbane in 2015 I started doing some mental health work with the club's welfare officer at the time. We started going out to all the junior clubs we were affiliated with and started doing work in schools with mental health charity LIVIN and Headspace about the challenges, changes and crises that you do go through, and how it is not weak to put your hand up and ask for help."
The transformation in Boyd, now settled and happy with wife Kayla and daughter Willow, is one he is justifiably proud of.
"I have definitely come a long way. I am still learning but I am very happy with the person I am," he said.
"The way I handle situations and the way I treat people is a lot different and I genuinely think I have a really good outlook on life.
"I still go through changes and challenges with footy and away from it, but my down times might be hours or minutes now.
"My relationships and support networks around me are in a really good spot where I have a lot of people I can count on and trust, whereas before I didn’t let enough people in to help me through difficult times.
"I have learned a lot and I will continue to grow as well."
Readers seeking support and information about mental health can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.