The devastating bushfires earlier this year and COVID-19 have impacted on people’s mental health more than ever before, prompting footy clubs across South Australia to tackle the issue head on this weekend for the Breakthrough Community Round.
Players at almost 30 Community Football clubs in SA will don purple and blue “Breakthrough” armbands to create awareness and raise much-needed funds for the Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation to support mental health research projects here in South Australia.
Participating clubs also will have the opportunity for their players, coaches or volunteers to take part in two-day mental health first aid training sessions run by Breakthrough later this year to provide life-saving support for family, friends and teammates.
Breakthrough Executive Director John Mannion said that with one in five Australians diagnosed with a mental health issue and more people aged between 15-44 years dying from suicide than any other cause – it was imperative to have support for groundbreaking research to better understand what causes mental illness, how to treat it, and how to prevent it from happening.
“We have a very, very resilient community here in Australia and a ‘can do’ attitude that we’ll be alright. The challenge behind that is that not everyone will be alright,” Mannion told SANFL Radio.
Mr Mannion said a return to community sport had been invaluable to many South Australians in helping with their mental health and wellbeing, especially those suffering from the impact of either the bushfires in January this year or the coronavirus pandemic.
“We know in the mental health arena we often talk about the two strongest things that we can build upon is having a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. They are really powerful to who we are,” he said.
“Sporting clubs provide that in an abundance, they give you a reason why to go and be part of something bigger than yourself, they let you connect and actually gives you an aim, a responsibility and an outcome towards achieving together.”
SANFL Head of Community Football Tom Hurley said he was thrilled that even in such a challenging time for grassroots footy clubs, players and volunteers had got behind the Breakthrough Community Round initiative in supporting someone they know with mental health illness and raising funds for research.
“Football isn’t just about playing footy, we know it provides much broader positive social benefits for people by improving mental health and wellbeing and offering support and connectedness for local communities,” Hurley said.
“Footy clubs are really positive spaces for delivering that social support, so we see significant advantages in supporting Breakthrough Foundation and striving to create a community free from mental illness.”
The SANFL Statewide Super League Round 8 Channel 7 broadcast match this weekend between South Adelaide and Woodville-West Torrens also will also see players wearing the purple and blue armbands in support of the Breakthrough Community Football Round.
If you or anyone you know would needs to speak with someone about mental health, please call the SA COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line on 1800 632 753. Other valuable support numbers that you may be able to share with someone you know are Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.