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The NRL is proudly supporting the #YouthGotThis online Youth Mental Health forum with three players to speak about overcoming their personal challenges.

It will be the second edition of the free Q&A event, run through the Matilda Centre at the University of Sydney, after last year's forum had more than 1000 registrations and 200 questions.

Esteemed journalist Jessica Rowe will again host and moderate the forum from 7-8.30pm AEDT on Monday, October 11 with an expert panel to engage in a valuable discussion.

Xavier Eales (youth mental health ambassador), Dr Rebecca Overton (general practitioner), Kristen Douglas (national manager of the Headspace Schools), Dr Ally Nicolopoulos (Black Dog Institute) and Dr Emma Barrett (The Matilda Centre) will share information, research and practical strategies to assist young people. 

The forum aligns with some key focuses of the NRL. The code is embedded in the mental health space through its State of Mind program.

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A few players will appear as surprise guests - recording 1-2 minute videos detailing their struggles and methods for overcoming them.

"Last year was more of a parent-focused forum," said Dr Overton, one of the forum's founders.

"We looked at how parents and carers can support kids' mental health with lifestyle measures and practical strategies and digital mental health tools that people could use to try and support young people experiencing challenges with their mental health.

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"This year, we really want to pitch it at a youth audience. We have a great panel ... The reason why we reached out to the NRL is that we thought that if we partnered with the NRL it would give us great reach to promote our forum and support young people experiencing challenges with their mental health. 

"And if we could have some of the young players speak about the challenges they've had with their mental health and what helped them improve we could impart a message of hope to our youth audience, and we thought that would really resonate.

"Our message overall is please talk to someone, please get help, it is treatable, you're not alone, don't suffer in silence. If you get help and you get treatment then you'll get through this."

"There will be a live Q&A chat. It's a webinar forum, so the audience will be on listen-only mode, but they will be able to feed questions in through the Q&A chat button and then we will have people moderating those incoming questions and throwing them to the panel."

Dr Overton said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health will be a major talking point.

"In my role as a general practitioner, I'm seeing more young people experience conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders in the context of the global pandemic and lockdowns, home-schooling, with disruptions to their future plans around study, travel and finding work," she said.

NRL wellbeing and education manager Paul Heptonstall said the game is continually pushing to destigmatise the issue of having mental ill-health.

"And I believe most players and staff are much more open to asking for help and letting people know that they are not at their best," he added.

"We have also focused our education on mental health to doing positive proactive activities which can help reduce the slide into a languishing state."

Heptonstall said the NRL encourages its players and staff to practise positive mental health activities with the goals of:

  • Getting to know themselves – strengths, values etc.
  • How to take care of themselves – sleep, diet, exercise etc.
  • Being themselves and not trying to be something they are not – living your values and doing the things that make you feel good and true to yourself.
  • Sharing yourself with true friends – this returns positive emotions.

"About 15 percent of the playing group throughout a season will reach out to some professional," Heptonstall said.

You're not alone, don't suffer in silence.

Dr Rebecca Overton

"And that's seen as a sign of strength, not weakness, now. That was the original message from [former player] Preston Campbell 10 years ago: that to speak up is strength."

Dr Overton reiterated her gratitude to the Matilda Centre and the NRL. It's hoped funding can be secured so the #YouthGotThis forum can be established as an annual event.

To register for the #YouthGotThis webinar, click here.


If you are in distress, you can contact one of these national helplines:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
- MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
- Headspace: 1800 650 890
- ReachOut 

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