It’s up to the sports community to change the culture that makes young men feel it’s not masculine or “manly” to talk about their struggles with mental health, a football coach says.
Avondale Football Club coach Sam Cutri said too many young men lack outlets to speak about their mental health.
The sports community should “break that cycle and really make it a priority to tell our fellow young sports guys that it’s okay to feel down, upset or mentally exhausted”, he said.
“It’s our duty as men who have influence on these guys, and they deserve to be heard and helped.”
A survey of 749 athletes aged 17 or older in 2020 reported that one in five had previously sought treatment for mental health problems and that 17.7 per cent of athletes had “high to very high” psychological distress, as opposed to 9.5 per cent of the general community.
Cutri says being able to talk about important issues makes better players.
“In order for players to be able to perform well and be good players, they must be able to speak to someone and reach out for help,” he says.
“Their mental health is a priority, and if they aren’t able to talk and be comfortable in their own minds, it will not match up physically on the field.”
After a knee injury that cost him a couple of seasons, Cutri said he struggled to cope. Not being able to talk to anyone about his mental health was an issue and eventually he fell “out of love with the game.”
“I didn’t touch a footy for five years. I worked hard, for so long, and I was on my own. I had no one to turn to, and I vividly remember being told to ‘keep my chin up and I’ll be okay’.”
Following his recovery, Cutri makes it a priority to make sure his players are mentally healthy, and that they know that they’re able to talk to him about their struggles with mental health, on and off the field.
Surfer Ethan King, 22, said he got into “a really bad headspace” after an ankle injury.
“I couldn’t walk properly and driving was out of the picture. It took me a long time to properly recover,” he said.
“I had pains everywhere and turned to alcohol in order to cope. I only wish that I could have been able to talk about my feelings to someone about what I was going through. It would have really helped.”
A survey conducted by the Black Dog Institute found that 9 per cent of young people aged 16-24 experience high levels of distress.
Bodybuilder Benjamin Coote, 20, said his struggles with depression after suffering an injury while training.
Fortunately, he said he did have someone to speak to and combat his issues before heading back to the gym.
“We should really get over this idea that men can’t talk to anyone so that they feel manly or don’t get made fun of,” he said.
“My trainer was the one who really helped me through this battle and without him I would have spiralled into deep depression.”