Rockingham at centre of SBL’s Mental Health Awareness Round

Stuart HortonSound Telegraph
Sunday Dech, Greg Hire and Luke Roberts ahead of the Rockingham Flames mental health game last year.
Camera IconSunday Dech, Greg Hire and Luke Roberts ahead of the Rockingham Flames mental health game last year. Credit: Stuart Horton

For the second successive year, Rockingham basketball is at the centre of a campaign to give mental health issues the bounce.

This weekend’s round 19 of the State Basketball League has been designated Mental Health Awareness Round in an effort to promote mental health and wellbeing, and to de-stigmatise mental health issues.

Rockingham Flames men’s player Greg Hire, through his charity A Stitch in Time, has played a crucial role in bringing the issue to the attention of the SBL and then helping to guide ideas around creating the messages of the round.

Last year, the Flames hosted their own mental health awareness match as a “trial run” to get the SBL involved, and also raised funds for A Stitch in Time, which provides mental health support for at-risk youth aged 12-25.

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“My best mate and brother suffer with mental illness, so I thought I’d try to leverage my standing as a Wildcats player to my advantage and do something positive,” Hire told the Sound Telegraph ahead of last year’s match.

Flames women’s centre Maddie Allen has also helped to de-stigmatise mental illness after speaking about her own mental wellbeing last year.

The Flames will also do their bit again, with the club’s players to wear special one-off jerseys during their last home match next Friday, July 26, which will then be auctioned off to raise funds for A Stitch in Time.

The SBL has also teamed up with Youth Focus and The Happiness Co to support the initiative, and general manager Adam Bowler said sport was an obvious avenue to help spread the message of looking after one’s own mental wellness and checking in on the wellbeing of others.

This weekend all players, coaches and referees in the SBL and the junior WA Basketball League competition will wear blue armbands as a visual reminder that the WA basketball community cares about, and prioritises, mental health.

“Mental health awareness is becoming bigger in society and that is so important, and the SBL wanted to get on board with that,” Mr Bowler said.

“We see basketball as an avenue to get that message out there. At the pre-season SBL Blitz tournament all the captains and coaches came in, as the leaders of each SBL program, and were given a really powerful talk from Chris Harris at Youth Focus.

“It opened everyone’s eyes to the importance of mental health to athletes, and the importance as a captain or a coach of understanding the signs that someone is not doing so well.”

Through the workshop, Mr Bowler said the SBL and clubs realised how useful the message was and the importance of spreading it, while also being mindful of building up a support network in stages.

Workshops are planned with WABL coaches to equip them with the tools to talk to their players or notice the signs they are not doing well mentally, and Mr Bowler envisages working with mental health providers more prominently at SBL and WABL games in the future.

“We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew, but we’re hoping this can build into a big round for both senior and junior basketball,” he said.

“It’s very hard to hit everyone (with the message) at once but if we can get the key messages out there through what we’re doing this weekend that’s really important.

“This is going to grow into something bigger where we’ll have groups like Youth Focus down at the games and making sure everyone has access to the resources required to help with mental health.

“We know how respected and important coaches are to a team, and coaches can impact a child’s life more than anyone else through what they say and what their actions are, so it’s important we can make sure they’re able to notice any signs and help them have those conversations that they don’t know how to have currently.”

The Flames face Warwick Senators at Warwick Stadium on Friday, with tip-off for the women at 6.30pm and 8.30pm for the men.

Readers seeking support and information can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Youth Focus on 6266 4333, BBBeyond Blueon 1300 224 636 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

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