Teaming up to build resilience
WHILE Clinton Toopi is no stranger to tackling hard on the field, tackling mental health stigmas off the field is his number one priority.
The former NRL player is just one of the elite athletes to have signed on as advocates for the State of Mind program, which focuses on building resilient and mentally healthy communities, one grassroots club at a time.
"Athletes are put on pedestals. People think because they're living the dream they shouldn't have anything to feel sad about,” Mr Toopi said in Roma on Wednesday night.
"Hearing stories from high-profile athletes and their struggles with mental illness really resonates with the clubs we speak to and shows it is OK not to be OK.”
Sponsored by the Queensland Government and AAM Investment Group, the State of Mind program covers 220 clubs across Queensland and aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and educate players about support systems available.
"We hope to have a trickle down effect and reach as many clubs, coaches, parents and players as possible,” Mr Toopi said.
"Men are the hardest to to reach and might not admit to needing help, so we go to them and arm them with the tools and knowledge they might not even have realised they need.
"We want to break down the mentality that those with mental illnesses are weak or crazy and that it can affect anyone.”
Development officer Grant Bignell urged all players to make the effort to attend the program after a poor turnout at a Rockhampton club because the coach didn't want to give up 40 minutes of training for the boys to listen.
"Our young men need to hear this,” he said.