TWO former hard men of rugby league have a simple bush message: Talking about mental illness shows strength, not weakness.
The lives of former Parramatta second-rower Nathan Hindmarsh and former Dragons prop Dan Hunt have both been touched by mental illness.
They are coming to regional NSW as part of The Sunday Telegraph’s Can We Talk forums, along with past and present stars including Anthony Minichiello, Tariq Sims, Adam MacDougall and Andrew Ryan, as part of the NRL’s State of Mind program, which tackles mental ill-health and suicide.
Hunt was diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, in 2010 and is a qualified social worker.
Bowral-born Hindmarsh has battled depression and gambling addiction, and is a qualified NRL mental health first aid officer.
Hindmarsh admits he’s been forced to drop his country-boy ‘‘suck it up’’ attitude.
“No longer are we a country of hard-arses and meatheads,” Hindmarsh, 35, said.
“It is OK to express your feelings.
“I have people who I’m close to who have suffered from a mental health issue, which they have been able to overcome through support.
“Being a father of three boys who have to deal with school and other things, as much as I am going to the forums to answer questions, I’m going there to listen.”
Hindmarsh and Minichiello will join us in Lismore on September 29, while Hunt will be in Dubbo with Ryan on September 21 and Wagga Wagga on September 22.
Tariq Sims and his sister Ruan will join us in Newcastle on September 15, along with MacDougall.
Hunt, 28, was diagnosed only after a Black Dog Institute visit to the Dragons in 2009.
“I felt like it was a weight off my shoulders,” he said.
“I understood why I was feeling a certain way.
“People are hiding their pain. You have to teach these kids that they are not alone, that it is not weak to ask for help, and they have to know where they ask for help.”
This article first appeared on ‘Adelaide Now’ on 15 August 2015.