Danny Frawley was an extraordinary Australian whose openness and kindness helped so many feel more comfortable putting up their hand for support with mental health issues.
For many people living with anxiety or depression, Danny eased the stigma that so often prevents them from seeking support, and really changed the conversation in the community about mental health through using his respected position as a well-loved football hero and commentator.
His message was simple: talk about your mental health struggles. Don't wait and get the support you need.
Danny opened the door for others to feel they can talk without shame about their own experience and take the first step towards recovery.
As he eloquently put it himself, manning up in the past was to suffer in silence. Manning up now is to put your hand up.
So, he has very much been a leader in changing community perspectives.
Mental health conditions are common and affect all sections of the community - whether you're a tradie, a footy player, a student or the boss of a business - no one is immune. In fact, one in seven Australian men will experience depression, anxiety or both in any year, and men are far less likely to seek professional support than women. Sometimes signs of mental health conditions are hard to see, even if you're close to someone, because many people spend significant energy putting a mask on and pretending everything is alright.
With depression, it's not just about a low mood.
It can play out in other ways such as having trouble sleeping, self-medicating with alcohol or drugs to dull the pain or withdrawing from life or even getting into conflict at work or at home.
But there are things we can all do to provide support to someone we are worried about. Whether it's a family member, friend or co-worker, having a conversation with them can be an important first step towards a solution.
You don't have to have all the answers. Just listening and showing you care can be enormously helpful for someone in mental health turmoil.
For men in particular, sometimes a chat while you're doing something else can be less confronting than a face-to-face deep and meaningful conversation.
It can be while you're driving or walking side-by-side, or even having a kick of the footy. You might start the conversation with something like, "Hey, you don't seem yourself lately - are you ok?" or "it's been a pretty tough week, how are you doing?"
If the person you're worried about pushes back and says "no, everything is ok", that's fine as you've opened the door and they might want to discuss things later on.
If they do open up, listen to what they say and offer to help them seek support.
Resist the temptation to jump in with simple solutions and try to sit back and listen. It might be worth having a look at RU OK's How to ask web page, because knowing how to have the conversation and what to do can change a life.
On behalf of Beyond Blue, I want to express our deepest condolences to Danny's family and friends.
We thank the family for encouraging donations to Beyond Blue. Every dollar we receive will go to the Beyond Blue Support Service, which is funded entirely by donations.
Last year, the service provided support to more than 192,000 people and for more than a third, it was the first time they had sought support for their mental health.
Reaching out is a powerful part of Danny's legacy.
- Dr Grant Blashki, Beyond Blue Lead Clinical Adviser
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