Playing for better health

Moreland City Council is linking forces with Moreland’s Australian Rules football clubs to talk about mental illness.

The ALLPLAY series of workshops, designed to raise awareness and break down barriers, will be delivered by Heath Black and Simon Hogan, ex–AFL footballers who both struggled with mental illness throughout their careers.

Mental illness is an under– recognised, under–diagnosed condition and despite increased community knowledge many people suffering mental illness are stigmatised.

Forty-five percent of Australians will suffer from a mental illness at some time in their life and one in five will experience a mental illness annually. Only about half of those affected by mental illness receive treatment. Heath and Simon’s stories reinforce the point that everybody is vulnerable to mental illness regardless of perceptions of professional success.

Heath Black said he was extremely passionate about the ALLPLAY program.

“I hope that my story of mental illness can help others to recognise the signs and symptoms, and ask for help.

“Educating clubs in this space provides much needed support for players and parents around good mental health.”

ALLPLAY is a pilot project to deliver health promotion messages through community organisations. It aims to create more supportive and inclusive club environments that raise awareness of mental illness, promote health and facilitate increased participation of people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds in the community through sport and physical activity.

As well as providing opportunities to participate in physical activity, sports clubs provide important places for people to interact with other members of the community and often play an important role in health and wellbeing.

Moreland City Council recognises this fact and invests hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to improve and extend the municipality’s sporting facilities and provide grants to clubs.

Moreland’s Healthy Communities Officer, Allana Sharman, who drove development of the ALLPLAY initiative for Council, said the key to the program’s success had been the Council’s great relationship with sports clubs.

“Clubs are taking the messages on board and starting to do something about promoting good mental health within their own organisation.

“One of the clubs has already run an awareness event for their members, and several other clubs have things in the pipeline.”