St George Illawarra Dragons second-rower Joel Thompson has proudly continued his role as an NRL State of Mind Ambassador for 2016.

Thompson is amongst representatives from all 16 NRL Clubs, the Australia Jillaroos and Touch Football Australia who have united to reduce stigma around mental illness.

Now in its third year, the NRL State of Mind program aims to encourage players, clubs and communities to speak up and seek help if they are experiencing any form of difficulty or difference in their mood.

The ambassadors have all nominated themselves for the roles – because they want to assist with the program.

One in two Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, with suicide the biggest killer of individuals aged 15-44.

NRL Head of Community, Adam Check said the program would evolve further next year, with the support of the code’s expert partners, Lifeline Australia, headspace, Kids Helpline and the Black Dog Institute.

“Together, our partners and ambassadors have spent time listening and actively participating at community and club forums across several States,” said Check.

“We know that as a sport, we have a big voice and responsibility to encourage all Australians to recognise that it’s ok if you feel vulnerable – there is help available.

“To have a self-nominated ambassador at every club next year goes to show how serious our game, our players and our clubs are about mental wellbeing as part of their culture.”

In addition to new ambassadors, the NRL State of Mind program will retain 10 incumbent ambassadors from 2015.

After extensive consultation with coalition partners and junior clubs, an NRL State of Mind grassroots program has also been developed and will be delivered to select junior clubs throughout 2016.

The aim of the programs is to:

  • Reduce the stigma around mental health within clubs and communities

  • Increase mental health literacy across grassroots Rugby League clubs

  • Stimulate help seeking behaviours of club members and communities

To learn more about the program and if you or anyone you know would like support, visit www.nrlstateofmind.com.au