A lot has changed in local sporting clubs over the years.

New equipment and facilities, electronic scoreboards, and mobile phone apps are just some of the modern reinventions.

But perhaps one of the biggest and most important changes sweeping through local clubs in recent years has been the attitudes to mental health and suicide prevention.

Where once it could have been seen as a point of weakness to be vulnerable in front of your teammates and admit you were struggling, more and more local clubs are learning about the importance of mental health and encouraging members to speak openly about their struggles.

Sydenham/Hillside Cricket Club is embracing this change.

President Warren Hackney has reached out to the North Western Melbourne Primary
Health Network (NWMPHN) and the club will host a mental health awareness talk in
coming weeks.

Mr Hackney said it was important for local clubs to help members off the field as well as on it.

“I thought it would be a great topic to cover and to talk about with a group of 30 to 40, mostly men, knowing that men typically are the types not to discuss mental health issues,” he said.

“I thought it was an important discussion to introduce to our group, and I think it’s timely in the current climate with the way mental health issues seem to be affecting so many people.

“I think communities like ours, and we are a community, find it important to embrace social causes as much as we do the day-to-day operation of the club.

“It’s important to educate our members on topics like this when we have the chance.

“Almost weekly it seems there’s an issue that someone’s encountering in their own personal lives, and this will be a good chance for us to open up and share a bit with each other.”

It’s a long way from the old-school thinking that Mr Hackney grew up with, and he said modern clubs were far better at dealing with mental health issues among members.

“We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go,” Mr Hackney said.

“I’ve been involved in sporting clubs for probably 35 years, and people are far more willing now to discuss and share personal experiences than they once were.

“Back in the day, there was no discussion about your personal issues, that was seen as a
sign of weakness and something that would be met with a fair bit of ridicule or bullying.

“You think about it now, and it really was just bullying. Even if it’s done in a jocular way you would cop a lot of grief if you opened up the way we do now.

“I think we’re getting better, and sessions like the one we’re about to do will be helpful in
educating people further.”

The NWMPHN is offering a short free online course – QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) –
designed to help people recognise if someone they know is at risk of suicide.

Mr Hackney recently completed the course, and said it was an important tool in combating mental health difficulties.

“It was quite a helpful course,” he said.

“It didn’t take too long, only an hour, and I learnt quite a few things from it. There were some things that I was probably already, to some extent, across, but it was good to get some pointers for how to treat certain situations.

“Definitely a worthwhile thing for anyoneto go through.”

To access the training, visit:lifespan.qprtraining.com/setup.php Use the code PBT.

If you or anyone you know needs help contact: Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au, Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or suicidecallbackservice.org.au or Mens Line: 1300 789 978.