By Henry Gilbert
AllGrid Energy’s (AGE) event “Illuminating the EnviroMENTAL: Healing from the inside out” is less than a week away. Held in the SMC function centre in Sydney with David Suzuki as our keynote speaker backed by an array of incredibly powerful voices from the indigenous community, the night promises to be truly inspiring. In the lead up we’re doing a series of feature articles to acquaint you with the speakers of the night.
Recently we did a feature on Elijah Douglas and his story about the Doomadgee boys, and shared his warm and honest wisdom. Our second feature was on the passionate advocate and young Indigenous leader, Amelia Telford. You will also have read our interviews with Olga Havnen, Josh Gilbert and Kirstie Parker, each an inspiring leader with a unique perspective. This article is on Nathan Blacklock, former star rugby player, rugby union player, known for his prolific scoring and celebration backflips, who has emerged as a powerful figure in the conversation about mental health in the sporting community.
We asked Nathan why he thought there had come to be such prevalence of depression and mental illness in young footy players.
“I think it’s very difficult for young men to really deal with their emotional issues when they’re existing in a rough and tough sporting culture. You really have to keep your chin up, mouth shut about this kind of stuff, and ‘be one of the boys’ or you’re seen as weak, and you wouldn’t get allowed on the pitch.”
“It was Arthur Beetson, the first Indigenous Australian to captain one of his country’s sporting teams, that really provided me with that mentor figure and helped me through the tough times in my career. I would see him at events and always question him or ask him how I could do better. His advice wasn’t always what I wanted to hear, but it was constructive. I always went away and thought about it and it made a lot of sense. My memories of him have really inspired me to give back to the community and the kids that are starting up playing now. Not just to help them through their footy careers but their lives as well.”
“There was a time when I was playing league and I thought everything was perfect because I was playing well. I was at the center of things, and it felt like I was on top of the world, and I guess I got used to that attention and rush. But when I finished playing I really crashed. A lot of people left my life and I realized who my real friends were. I suffered a lot from depression and tried to take my life three times. I was supposed to be the tough rugby player so it felt easier to do that then to go out there and face people. That’s how deeply that sense of keeping quiet about my mental health was.”
“Thankfully, there’s a lot more support and awareness of these issues than ever before and its really inspiring to see the community coming together and helping out our young people to get through the issues they’re struggling with. I take great pride in my role of looking out for the kids that really need it.”
What a real and honest champion of the sport! We here at AGE look forward to seeing Nathan in Sydney at ‘Illuminating the EnviroMENTAL: healing from the inside out’. If you’re interested in participating in this amazing event we’d love to have you along on the night, you can buy tickets for the event here. If you can’t attend we have set up a donation crowd-funding platform for people and we would very much appreciate it if you could share these events through your social media platforms.