Everyone wants to know if U R OK

By Brayden May

ARE YOU okay?

It's a question you shouldn't be afraid to ask your loved ones.

Thursday marked R U OK? Day, a national day of action which aims to remind everyone it is a question we should be asking every day.

There is never a wrong time or place to ask this question - whether it be at home, at the pub or down at your local sporting club.

In country towns, sporting clubs are the lifeblood of the lives of the population - a community within a much bigger community.

We spoke to local clubs and leagues about mental health in the community.

Echuca FNC senior co-coach Andrew Walker

"Sporting clubs are like one big family, there is open dialogue between everyone so it's important to develop a strong trust. People are able to put on a smile to adapt to a situation which some people might think is brave, but we should be encouraging others to speak up.

"At country clubs there is a strong unity because people are there due to their love of the game. When you're at AFL level you can lose your passion because it is your job and you're in a battle with other people to stay employed.

"I think the AFL could learn from country areas because there is a genuine family feeling at those clubs."

Echuca United FNC president Lucas Walker

"The health of everyone involved at our club is important, whether it be mental or physical. We pride ourselves as a family club and want everyone to know it's alright to speak up.

"The social side of a sporting club is massive, you want people to feel comfortable about opening up. I think one of the best factors is that you can go to so many different people. Clubs have a wide ranging demographic, meaning there is someone for everything.

"We've run different sessions in the past based around bullying and alcohol awareness because we want to help educate our players. Going forward it's something we want to become more active in doing."

Moama FNC president David Grubb

"These days it's important because people are easier to talk to and more understanding of a person's situation. If people know an avenue exists they are going to be comfortable looking for support.

"We ran programs for all of our players earlier in the year and it gave them the framework on what to do in those types of situations.

"The club is already looking at doing it on a yearly basis because it certainly gives us something to work with and how to make our environment a better place for everyone." 

Picola and District League operations manager Shane Railton

"The league has previously run self-funded programs and our goal is to try and make everyone involved a better person. But I feel like there is still a lot more to be done in this area.

"As a sporting community, we're beginning to become more open about these issues but we're learning on the go. Starting these programs at a young age is critical because we want to develop people in everyday life.

"Clubs are often the only hub for people in a small town. It can be the only place where someone can go for a meal with their mates. Our clubs are essential to country life."

If you or someone you know needs help now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. If it becomes a crisis go immediately to the nearest hospital or phone 000.