“I don’t think you will ever swim for Australia.”
These are the words that had the biggest effect on my high school life. These words might seem harmless enough, but, I assure you that they were enough to cut extremely deep. For a fifteen year old boy, who had trained between eight and ten times a week for ten years, they were most definitely enough. Enough to affect my school work, my rugby, my weight and general fitness, my friendship groups and even my relationship with my family.
On that day by the pool back in 2007, I discovered that I was depressed and I realized the profound impact that my sporting life had on my personal mental health.
We all know that mental health is an enormous issue in Australia and that 20% of adult Australians will battle some form of mental illness in any given year. What isn’t recognised is the prevalence of mental health issues within both amateur and professional sporting communities within Australia.
As an individual who has been part of the Australian sporting community my whole life, I know that mental health is a problem for athletes, made even worse by the fact that many don’t seek help. Some athletes believe they need to show a brave face and have no signs of weakness, others use sport and success as a way of hiding their mental health problem and others, like me, aren’t aware of their issues until something that has been such a large part of their lives for so long is ripped away from them.
With this in mind, I decided that this is an area we as a sporting community need to focus on in much more depth. As such, myself and friends decided to create an organisation called SportsWise. We will aim to raise awareness for mental health at all levels of the sporting community. We hope to be able to speak to and mentor sport teams to support each other towards healthy balance between physical and mental health and wellbeing for their entire lives.
We’re just starting out, and who knows where it will lead, but we recognise that this is something really important and I want to be able to help others.