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12 April 2012
Is a member of your club affected by mental illness? Are you concerned for a player's mental health? Do you know how to help them?
Firstly, let's look at the facts:
• Almost one in five Australians will experience a mental illness at some stage in their lives.1
• A quarter of 16-24 year olds suffer from depression.2
• Mental illness is a major risk factor for suicide with research showing that up to 90% of people may have had a mental illness at the time of their death.3
These are scary statistics that tell us one undeniable truth - it's likely that someone in your club has a mental illness. As such, it's important to not only know what this means, but also what you and your fellow club members can do to support anyone with issues.
What is mental illness?
In simple terms, 'mental illness' refers to a medically diagnosable range of disorders that result in a significant impairment of a person's thinking, emotional or relationship abilities, and which may require treatment and rehabilitation to manage the symptoms.
Major disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety and eating disorders, but the full range of psychiatric conditions could also include things like post-natal depression and dementia.
Many people affected by mental illness will recover quickly and, of the remainder, most can be treated and will recover. However, some will experience longer periods of distress and disability that may seriously impact on their lives and their relationships.
It's important to understand that mental illness is not a choice. It is just like any other illness, such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma. It can and does happen to anyone.
Mental illness and violence
There are many negative stereotypes associated with mental illness. One of the most common is that people with mental illness are unpredictable and often violent or dangerous.
However, research tells us that people receiving treatment for a mental illness are no more violent or dangerous than the general population. In fact, people living with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence, especially self-harm. Any violent behaviour towards others is likely to be influenced by: personality type and behaviour before the illness; use of drugs or alcohol; any untreated psychotic symptoms; or a failure to take medication.
Help, someone in our club is in crisis!
Most people with mental illness recover well and, with appropriate treatment and support, are able to lead fulfilling lives. Sporting clubs can play a vital role, not only in the recovery process, but also in prevention - because people who participate in the community and in physical activity tend to enjoy better mental health.
However, when someone becomes unwell or you suspect a new member is having mental health issues at training or at an event, it can be distressing, confusing and frightening for everyone. So, what do you do?
• Communicate clearly in an honest, understanding manner. Speak firmly – a very firm 'please stop' can sometimes help the person to regain control.
• Do not crowd, rush or unnecessarily touch the person. Avoid a confrontation – sometimes it can be best just to leave the person until they calm down.
• Provide a calm, safe environment. Move to quieter, more open surroundings. If necessary, remove items with which the person might harm themselves or others.
• Try to behave in a quietly confident manner. Be firm but friendly and unthreatening. Reassure that help is on its way.
• Have a plan – know who you are going to call if a person's aggressive behaviour persists. This may be a mental health crisis team, doctor, carer or neighbour. Remember that violence is always unacceptable and you may have to call the police.
• Make contact with the person's carer, parent or family member to find out if they have been diagnosed or are being treated for a mental illness. Ask what the club can do to help ensure that person's continued involvement.
Where to go for more information or help
• ask a health professional or visit your local hospital to ask for help and information
• Sane Australia
• Play by the Rules has a Quick Reference Guide which provides contact details for child welfare agencies, counselling services and a range of relevant organisations.
For more immediate advice and assistance try:
• SANE Helpline - 1800 18 SANE (7263)
• Lifeline - 13 11 14
• Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800
• beyondblue info line - 1300 22 4636
• Mensline - 1300 789 978