AT the start of the footy season a group of local teenagers got together and in an effort to meet weekly key performance indicators decided to support a south-west charity.
It's fitting then that a season which threw up plenty of challenges for the young footballers that the under 18.5 North Warrnambool Eagles players raised $500 for mental health charity Let's Talk.
Coach Darren McDowall said when he was younger mental health was not something that was ever discussed but he hoped that would change for other generations.
He said at the beginning of the season it was decided rather than having the goal of winning and playing better footy to raise money for a charity.
"I handed it over to the boys and they wanted to give it to a local charity and Let's Talk was the one," he said.
"Every week we'd work out a KPI that we might want to use on the day, so it might be 30 tackles for the day.
"If we achieved that then money donated in by supporters went to the charity. It was player driven, they've shown some great leadership for young men. My group are the 16 to 19 age group and mental health wise it has probably been pretty tough for them. Football is a bit of an outlet for them.
"Even though we all play football and winning is our goal our purpose is much deeper than that. Mental health was not something spoken about when I was young and I'm hoping these guys can talk to someone if they need to."
Co-captain Baillie Keast said the players had worked hard to keep in touch with each other during the lockdowns.
"We're just making sure we're all talking," he said. "Obviously it's tough times and not much we can really do but the best we can do is go for a run and keep fit or go for a kick of the footy."
Let's Talk co-founder John Parkinson said young males were a high risk group in terms of youth suicide and it was crucial to end the stigma around mental health. "These kids can carry it through for the rest of their lives and hopefully influence their other networks and social connections as they go through life," he said.
"It's getting past that secrecy and shame factor and recognising that none of us are bullet proof and that there are times for most of us in our lives where we will struggle and how do we get through that period?
"By sharing it and allowing other people to support us. They can't support us if we're not going to be more open about what we're going through."
- For support phone Lifeline 13 11 14, beyondblue 1300 22 4636 or the Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)
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