Recognising the need to tackle mental health, the Burwood Uniting Canterbury Cricket Club (Burwood Bulls) are providing a support network to their members through a player welfare program called WINGS.
The Bulls pride themselves on being a family friendly club and with the realisation that many members were suffering mental health struggles, either openly or behind closed doors, the Bulls took inspiration from Hawthorn Amateur Football Club’s (HAFC) WINGS program.
“On our end of season trip, a member of the Bulls spoke about a program that Hawthorn had set up which completely altered the fabric of their club,” said Bulls Player Welfare Manager, Alex Barr.
“That really inspired us to implement a similar program at Burwood. We received some assets and contacts from HAFC to get us started and we then sought our own sponsors to get the necessary funds for the program to get off the ground.”
The Bulls received grants from the Surrey Hills and Canterbury Bendigo Bank branches which assisted with setting up the program as well as paying for promotional tools such as posters, R U OK? booklets and flyers that explain ways to assist those dealing with mental health struggles.
Barr also contacted local psychologists and set up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with Nexus Psychology which provides all members and their immediate family three complimentary and confidential sessions with Nexus.
“Our club does consist of a lot of older men and historically, that demographic has required a bit of a push,” he said.
“So, this is a way to encourage them to seek help if necessary and to do so without a financial burden.”
“Alex’s call came out of the blue but after talking to him about the program, I was impressed with the initiative and keen for Nexus to help,” said Dori Kabillo, Nexus Psychologist.
“The thing that sets us apart from other psychology services is our detailed matching service. With every new client, we discuss their struggles and goals and together we assess which psychologist at Nexus, who all have their specific areas of expertise, is the right fit. Our EAP is organised confidentially and any invoices that are supplied are done so anonymously.”
Beyond those initial three sessions, the Bulls are determined to provide further assistance to their members when necessary.
“If a player feels they require more sessions, they can come to the club and we will find a way to continue to get them help,” said Barr.
“We will always find a way; it is not a consideration to say we cannot help beyond those three sessions.”
In her experience, Kabillo has seen that the mere presence of a service likes WINGS can pay dividends, regardless of whether members take up the offer.
“Organisations should be aware a program like WINGS may not instantly create a rush and they will not find themselves inundated with invoices,” she said.
“We have found the installation of this type of program is beneficial as it shows the club cares and is looking out for members’ wellbeing. The fact that the opportunity is there makes a real difference.”
“I recently had a club member reach out to me about WINGS and he noted that without the program he wouldn’t have addressed the issue,” added Barr.
“The conversation is alive at the Bulls about making sure our friends and club mates are ok and to ensure that there is a program in place if they are struggling.”
After that first step is taken, Kabillo says it is important to maintain contact with the individual seeking help and to follow up in the ensuing days.
“I always implore people that if someone does confide in them, it is important to follow up,” she said.
“Whether that means noting it down in your calendar or writing a sticky note for yourself, following up in the next few days and asking how that person is coping shows you have been listening and are continuing to care about their mental health.
“But we know that once an individual opens up about their struggles, the effects can be almost immediate.
“The healing process begins as soon as you start talking about that thing you may have been ignoring or that has been troubling you. By the time someone has rung us and booked an appointment, they are already feeling a sense of relief.”
Barr has seen first-hand the positive effect that WINGS has had and is now planning on expanding the program with guest speakers, more resources and themed events at the club.
“If the Bulls have helped even just one person through this program then it has already been a success.”
For further information on WINGS and advice on how to set up a similar program, contact Alex Barr on 0425 727 146.
This article was reproduced with permission from Vicsport - https://vicsport.com.au/blog/3502/burwood-bulls-bowling-over-mental-health-with-wings-program