Thursday, 10 May 2007

Rural footy league sees two-thirds of teams hit by suicide

A regional Victorian Australian football league has launched a suicide prevention course, after the deaths of players from eight of the 12 teams that make up the competition.

After a number of suicides since 1999, the Goulburn Valley Football League has teamed up with local organisation Family Care in a bid to identify depression among young men before it is too late.

Family Care's David Mellington says the Coaching the Coaches program gives coaches and players mental health training to help spot troubled players.

"The program uses the football team structure to effectively reach young men in rural towns to increase the recognition of suicide risk and the encouragement of both self-help and professional-help seeking behaviours," he said.

"It aims to try and assist the people that are studying the course in identifying the early warning signs of mental disorder and some basic first aid methods in which we can deal with those disorders."

Lorraine Appleby's son Gary committed suicide in 1999, the weekend after his team won the premiership.

She says that despite working with her son every day on the family's dairy farm, she had no insight into the depression he was suffering.

"We didn't have any awareness at all because we didn't know anything about depression," she said.

Ms Appleby says it is only since her son died that she has learnt the tell-tale signs of depression.

"I went to a suicide awareness program which was run by the CWA in conjunction with Lifeline and the young gentleman from Lifeline was really good and gave us information as to what the signs of depression were, and suddenly it all fell into place," she said.

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