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Make good mental health your goal

Pictured (l-r) getting ready for the Mental Health Football Round are Steve Hardy from Kempe Read the Play, Gippsland Power coach Leigh Brown, AFL Gippsland's Travis Switzer and LRH Director of Mental Health Cayte Hoppner.

Mental strength has long been a mark of a good football or netball team, but good mental health is fast becoming another coveted trait.

Football and netball clubs and leagues across Gippsland are making mental health their goal as part of Mental Health Round on Saturday 23 July, with one game in each of the region’s seven senior football and netball competitions dedicated to the cause.

Home clubs will wear light blue socks and netball bibs to raise awareness of mental health issues in the community.

Following each game, the Alliance Medal will be presented to a player who best displays courage, determination and teamwork, while the club that wins the most games of football and netball played on the day will be awarded the Mental Health Round Champions Cup.

The round coincides with Gippsland Power’s TAC Cup clash with Geelong Falcons being dedicated to Kempe Read The Play – a program aimed at improving mental health in young people.

The Mental Health Round concept was developed by AFL Gippsland and the Gippsland Mental Health Alliance, with funding provided by the Gippsland Primary Health Network.

AFL Gippsland region general manger Travis Switzer praised clubs and leagues for their willingness to engage in the initiative.

“What started in the North Gippsland Football Netball League three years ago, now directly involves 19 clubs and communities across Gippsland,” he said.

“Football has proven a great vehicle for important community messages and if this initiative makes a different to one life it has been worth the exercise.”

Latrobe Regional Hospital Director of Mental Health, Cayte Hoppner said football and netball clubs had an important role to play in addressing mental health issues in the community.

“Every football and netball club faces mental health issues at some stage, but many don’t have the necessary resources to provide the support that is needed,” Ms Hoppner said.

“The aim of this initiative is to engage the community in a discussion about mental health to reduce stigma and give factual and accurate information about access to services and treatment.”

Gippsland Power will play Geelong Falcons in the special TAC Cup Kempe Read the Play match.

The ‘Read the Play’ program began working with local football and netball clubs in 2013 to start a conversation about mental health with players who are 16 years of age and under.

Facilitators from the program run an interactive games night with clubs where participants work as a team to better understand mental illness, its symptoms and where to get help.

The program originated in Geelong and has reached more than 12,000 young people over the last decade.

It is delivered at Gippsland Power as well as in the Gippsland, North Gippsland and Mid Gippsland Football and Netball Leagues.

There will be giveaways at all of the Mental Health Round games and spectators will be able to speak with mental health professionals to find out about the services available in Gippsland.

The Mental Health Round games are: