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Footy clubs to combat mental health

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mental health

8.6 Australians die every day by suicide, and 75% of those who take their own life are male. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.  

Local sporting clubs are an unlocked, and powerful solution to help with the mental health crisis believes CEO and Founder of Sport and Life Training, Dave Burt.   

It all started with a call – “Dave, we just lost a beloved young 19-year-old boy from our Bonbeach Senior Football Club to suicide. Please come speak to the boys and help us navigate through.”  

Before founding Sport and Life Training (SALT), Dave Burt was a sports educator working with clubs around Victoria. SALT is a not-for-profit health charity that is transforming Australian culture through sport.   

It was during the session with Bonbeach Senior Football Club, that Burt knew he wanted to create SALT.   

“The kids did not know how to grieve or where to grieve. It wasn’t at school, and it wasn’t the police or the teachers who could manage the situation. It was when that coach said. ‘Boys, you know that I love you’, and I think they knew it was true.”  

The organisation helps equip local sporting clubs to become better at caring for each other through one of their most successful initiatives, the Club Wellbeing Programs.  

According to Burt, many of the traditional institutions of care we relied on in the past have disappeared or become less connected i.e. the family unit, schools, the local neighbourhood, and the church.   

Today, the sporting club is the major hub of connection for many people, and this is even more the case in rural areas.   

Since its inception in 2013, SALT has helped over 700 clubs through their range of wellbeing, culture and leadership courses, and has established and trained around 40 ongoing Club Wellbeing Teams.   

They have helped these clubs, and their members connect with their wider communities, have open conversations and destigmatise mental health challenges for men.   

SALT is aiming to go national, offering services across all foot clubs in Australia next financial year, 2024-25. 

Related: Opinion: Three ways we can improve access to timely, affordable mental health care

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.

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