Local sporting clubs have an important role in their players and their families lives, and by providing Mental Health First Aid training, the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) and the Thick & Thin initiative are improving the support available to players. By providing the clubs with an Accredited MHFAider it gives team members who may be struggling with a person that they can have discussions with and ultimately assist them with finding the most appropriate help.
Thick & Thin is a player led initiative that focuses on providing support to clubs which was co-founded by former Geelong player Simon Hogan. Since 2015, through Thick & Thin VAFA clubs have played a mental health round with the clubs purchasing a blue ‘socks pack’ to show support and acknowledge the struggles of people with mental illness. It was when Simon was looking for an outcome for the donations and fundraising that MHFA training was found to be the perfect fit.
David Bastian, director of the Mental Health Education Group has been working with VAFA to provide MHFA training with the funds raised from the socks packs. Having come from country Victoria he understands the important role and local football and netball clubs play in the community. Over 50 have received the accreditation in the last year, and Thick & Thin are now working with regional leagues to roll out the socks round for next year.
Simon shares that Hawthorn amateur footy club has had multiple players and staff complete the training, leading to an outstanding culture around mental health. The club now raise money for beyondblue regularly and have a fund available for players to access when they experience periods of poor mental health. Those that completed the training said it gave them the confidence to be more proactive at the club in raising awareness and having conversations.
“We commonly hear that clubs know they need to have these conversations, they just don’t know how to start. By working through the ALGEE actions and applying them, it educates participants to know what to look for and ways to approach.” says David.
“The training is really important as it gives the participants the confidence to have these difficult conversations with a degree of confidence and using language that is thoughtful or positive and productive.”
Ultimately, VAFA have found that providing training to clubs is beneficial for player retention and welfare. This means that players are kept at the club in a supportive environment and this is always going to be considered a positive outcome for players and clubs.