The power to speak up

RELATED COVERAGE: Clubs gather strength to back healthy cause

MENTAL health issues afflict one in four young people aged 14-25 and no segment of society is immune.

That is why Gippsland Power is an advocate of the Kempe Read the Play mental health program, with this weekend’s TAC Cup clash against Geelong dedicated to promoting the initiative.

Power head coach and Read the Play ambassador Leigh Brown said mental health was an issue tackled at the club as part of an holistic approach.

“There’s a lot of education for the boys and development not only on the field but off it, so health and wellbeing is right up there,” Brown said.

“As much as we can educate these guys, give them ways to speak up, to have more information not only for themselves but to see the signs in their mates as well, it’s really important.”

The club has been affected in recent times, with former Power and now Western Bulldogs footballer Lukas Webb speaking out about losing a friend to suicide last year.

“It’s certainly something you notice at times with the kids. Lukas Webb had an article where he opened up about one of his young mates who committed suicide last year and some of our boys were good friends with him as well,” Brown said.

“It certainly doesn’t miss us just because we play footy, so it’s about giving the boys the tools to deal with that, whether it’s their own issue or family or friends.”

This week’s opponent Geelong is also a big advocate of the program, which began in their own backyard about a decade ago.

Read the Play was created to raise awareness of mental health issues and provide outlets for affected persons to seek help.

The organisation runs programs, predominantly in the under 14 to under 16 range, after training sessions to help foster awareness of mental health issues for football and netball clubs in the form of interactive games nights with an important message.

Kempe spokesman Steve Hardy said it was all about supporting young people and football and netball clubs formed a huge part of that demographic.

“Our program is designed to bring that recognition and knowledge, and take away the stigma of mental health issues so people can take away the important parts of it,” he said.

“One in four juniors, or people between the ages of 14 and 25, will experience mental health issues. If we can make a difference to one of those people… it’s an achievement for us.”

On the field Power had a draw in last year’s corresponding round against Calder and will be looking to go one better against the current TAC Cup league leader.