Huxley talks about mental health round

By Pete Fairbairn, 15.10.14

Melbourne Rising Media Unit

National Mental Health Week took place last week, including World Mental Health Day on Friday, and on the back of that the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) will this week be officially recognised as Mental Health Round.

Mental health is an important issue in Australia, with one in five people suffering from some form of depression, anxiety or mental health issue. 75% of these people have their first mental health issue before 25, and the issues are therefore pertinent given the average age of Australian Rugby players is 18 – 25 years old

NRC major partner Buildcorp is therefore working with the Rugby Union Player’s Association (RUPA) and State Unions to raise funds and awareness to encourage young people to talk about mental health issues.

Volunteers will be collecting donations and selling Buildcorp and replica Gilbert Rugby balls at each Buildcorp NRC match in round nine. Funds raised will go towards The Buildcorp Charitable Fund, a sub-fund of the Trust Company Foundation, to assist Lifeline’s Online Crisis Support Chat service.

Foundation RaboDirect Rebel Julian Huxley finished his career with Narbonne in France after two years in Melbourne, and struggled with mental illness during his career.

Huxley made nine appearances for the Wallabies and over 80 Super Rugby appearances before moving to France. In 2008, he suffered a seizure during a match for the ACT Brumbies and was subsequently diagnosed with a brain tumour.

He had to undergo over two years of intensive medical treatment, including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy before remarkably returning to top-level professional Rugby after gaining medical clearance.

Huxley battled with mental illness during his recovery from the tumour, and has been a pillar of strength in the Rugby community.He is a big supporter of the concept of a mental health round.

“In terms of men seeking help for depression, the majority just won’t do it; the studies say that 98% of men won’t seek help unless they’re forced to,” he explained. “Most of the voluntary solutions and awareness stuff that’s available for people are great services, but the people who really need the help avoid them like the plague. What you end up doing is helping the ‘unhappy happy’ people who are just going throw a rough trot.

“The ones who systematically beat themselves up and have real issues are very good at hiding it and masking it, and getting out of situations where they might be forced to confront it.”

Huxley’s battles were incredibly tough to overcome, and after being removed from an environment where he played Rugby every day for so long it was a really difficult part of his life.

“The brain tumour did originally take away my career and how I had always seen myself, and it forced me to look at my life and what I was going to do after Rugby and what was important to me; that was a great wake up call,” he said. “Through the whole process I learnt a lot about myself and also different ways of coping; we’re our own worst enemies a lot of the time. I learnt that seeking help was the only way to get through it, period.

“I went from not being able to get out of bed halfway through my chemotherapy to then getting some help and turning it around to be the only bloke who has ever come back to contact sport after brain surgery.”

Huxley believes more needs to be done to address mental health among young men, including in sporting organisations.

“It is going to take really good leadership from the management of a sporting team or organisation to change the perception of what mental illness actually is, and get their young men to seek proper help,” Huxley said. “Awareness campaigns such as NRC Mental Health Round are wonderful initiatives, and hopefully it can assist in encouraging the people who really need help to seek care.

"It’s great to get help from people like Jo and Tony Sukkar at Buildcorp. Bringing attention to the issue is an important step in normalising the concept of mental health and enabling people to talk through their problems. Jo and Tony have supported Sydney Uni for a long time and you will not find better people. Rugby and society in general is very lucky to have them making the world a better place."

Principle of Buildcorp, Josephine Sukkar together with husband Tony has been instrumental in supporting the round and Rugby at all levels.

“At Buildcorp, it was brought to our attention that a young man working on a construction site in Australia is more than twice as likely to commit suicide than any other young man in the wider Australian community,” Josephine said.

“That has resonated with our people at Buildcorp and we are working internally to train and raise awareness with our own people, and our subcontractors and suppliers on our sites.

“The primary objective of Round 9 for the Buildcorp Charitable Fund is to raise funds to assist to broaden their on-line presence to remain relevant to the younger population, who tend to communicate this way. We have confirmed with Lifeline, RUPA and other organisations we have worked with that this is where our focus should lie.”

This coming NRC round, Buildcorp with the help of the Melbourne Rising will be looking to raise money on the concourse leading into the Stadium, by selling genuine NRC Gilbert footballs, and asking for donations.

Buildcorp, together with RUPA and the State Unions, are targeting $50,000 in funds raised across round nine of the NRC, the Bledisloe Test and at other Rugby events during the round. Follow and help raise awareness using #mentalhealthround #rugbytalks on Twitter

The Buildcorp Charitable Fund is a sub fund of The Trust Company Foundation. The purpose of the fund is to support causes important to the 250 staff at Buildcorp, and their families, with this years focus on supporting charities around mental health.

Background information - RUPA and Buildcorp NRC’s mental health round

All RUPA’s Player Development Managers (PDMs) are Mental Health First Aid trained
RUPA has hosted Mental Health First Aid courses in 2012 and 2014 to key members of the rugby community, including Doctors, Physios, Coaches and Team Managers
RUPA continues to develop a number of sport specific resources to assist both players and support staff
In 2013, RUPA delivered a module on mental health as part of the level 3 coaching course for the ARU, which was the first of its kind
RUPA have also ensured that mental health, and how to deal with it, is included in the level 3 Coach curriculum going forward
RUPA has representation on the IRB Mental Health working committee
RUPA partners with expert organisations, including South Pacific Private Hospital (a professional mental health treatment centre) to supplement resources and knowledge on mental health and to proactively identify and help players with mental health issues
South Pacific Private attend RUPA’s annual induction camp for first year professional Australian rugby players to ensure they are aware of the mental health support available to them from the beginning

Pete Fairbairn
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