Clubs gather strength to back healthy cause

RELATED COVERAGE: The Power to speak up

Mental strength has long been a mark of a good football or netball team, but good mental health is fast becoming another coveted trait.

Football and netball clubs and leagues across Gippsland are making mental health their goal as part of Mental Health Round on 23 July, with one game in each of the region’s seven senior football and netball competitions dedicated to the cause.

Home clubs will wear light blue socks and netball bibs to raise awareness of mental health issues in the community.

Following each game, the Alliance Medal is to be presented to a player who best displays courage, determination and teamwork, while the club that wins the most games of football and netball played on the day will be awarded the Mental Health Round Champions Cup.

The round coincides with Gippsland Power’s TAC Cup clash with Geelong Falcons being dedicated to Kempe Read The Play – a program aimed at improving mental health in young people.

The Mental Health Round concept was developed by AFL Gippsland and the Gippsland Mental Health Alliance, with funding provided by the Gippsland Primary Health Network.

In addition to the themed round of competition, the project partners have arranged three community events – at Lakes Entrance, Yinnar and Warragul football netball clubs – with AFL great and renowned mental health advocate Wayne Schwass as guest speaker.

AFL Gippsland region general manager Travis Switzer praised clubs and leagues for their willingness to engage in the initiative.

“Watching this project grow over the past three years has been very rewarding,” Switzer said.

“What started in the North Gippsland Football Netball League three years ago, now directly involves 19 clubs and communities across Gippsland.

“Football has proven a great vehicle for important community messages and if this initiative makes a difference to one life it has been worth the exercise.”

Latrobe Regional Hospital director of mental health Cayte Hoppner said football and netball clubs had an important role to play in addressing mental health issues in the community.

“Every football and netball club faces a challenge with mental health at some stage, but many don’t have the necessary resources to provide the support that is needed,” Hoppner said.

“The aim of this initiative is to engage the general community in a discussion about mental health to reduce stigma, and give factual and accurate information about access to services and treatment.”

The Mental Health Round program kicked off this week, with a community event at Lakes Entrance Football Netball Club tonight .

2016 Mental Health Round fixtures

Saturday 23 July

? Traralgon v Bairnsdale

? Stony Creek v Toora

? Heyfield v Glengarry

? Boisdale-Briagolong v Stratford

? Bruthen v Swifts Creek

? Newborough v Boolarra

? Ellinbank v Bunyip

? Gippsland Power v Geelong Falcons

(Kempe Read The Play)

2016 Mental Health Round community events

? Thursday 21 July, Yinnar Football Netball Club

? Thursday 28 July, Warragul Football Netball Club