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The National Rugby League (NRL) has launched its annual “State of Mind” mental health campaign, encouraging Australians to turn “Down-Time into Mate-Time.”

This year branding at ANZ Stadium for Game II of the Ampol State of Origin Series and Sunshine Coast Stadium for the Harvey Norman Women’s State of Origin will transform from “State of Origin” to “State of Mind.”

The NRL’s campaign will focus on encouraging Australians to reach out to mates during their down-time after a challenging year.

NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said State of Mind took on additional importance this year.

“One thing we’ve learnt in 2020 is the importance of staying connected with one another,’’ he said.

“The COVID pandemic has forced so many of us into isolation, so this year the campaign is focussing on encouraging people to use their down-time to call or text a mate they haven’t spoken to in a while. It’s a small gesture but can make such a huge difference.

“The State of Mind campaign will again launch off the platform of State of Origin. Rugby league means different things to different people, but for many it is an outlet away from challenges and we’re delighted to continue with that tradition in 2020.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the NRL has done a fantastic job shining a light on mental health and bringing communities together.

“The State of Mind campaign sends a very important message to look out for one another and for our own wellbeing, especially when mental health issues have been exacerbated this year by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Barilaro said.

“I’ve said before that footy is the tonic we need to get through this pandemic, and this initiative is too, by encouraging people to simply check on each other we can help flatten the curve of mental health issues in our communities.”

The NRL’s State of Mind workshops have reached more than 3000 participants across 368 grassroots clubs since it began seven years ago.

headspace Chief Executive Officer Jason Trethowan said staying connected was a critical part in supporting mental health and wellbeing. 

“Whether it’s sending a message to a friend or family member, arranging a walk, or a quick phone chat, social connection in all forms can greatly improve our wellbeing,’’ he said.

For fans wanting to do more to support mental health in Australia, the NRL have partnered with Gotcha4Life to help drive donations. 

Gotcha4Life funds educational workshops and training programs that build mental fitness in communities across Australia, to enable strong, open and binding relationships and reduce suicide.

Gotcha4Life Founder Gus Worland said organisations working together to build greater social connections was important.

“This is a great initiative by the NRL, particularly in light of the challenges facing many in 2020. My vision is a society where people are open, honest and supportive in their relationships and comfortable to express themselves when they are not ok.  The NRL’s State of Mind program ties in perfectly with this vision,” he said.

“I’ve been impressed with the stories of male and female rugby league players over the years; role models who are comfortable expressing their feelings, reinforcing that it’s normal and encouraged to speak up and ask for help. I want to thank Andrew and the NRL for allowing us the opportunity to join the movement as we work together to build greater social connections and stronger mental fitness”.

The Black Dog Institute’s Director Helen Christensen said: “Almost 80 per cent of Australians said their mental health had worsened as a result of the pandemic. 60 per cent of people experiencing mental health issues will not seek help.”

The NRL has launched a marketing campaign featuring Josh Mansour, which includes a TV ad, radio and print advertising encouraging fans to ‘convert their downtime into mate time’.