WENDELL Sailor has gone head-to-head with some giants in his time, but he says the black dog is the biggest thing he’s ever had to tackle.
The dual-international says he’s “really honoured and very humbled” to be the guest speaker at the upcoming White Elephant Ball, which raises money for local mental health charity Batyr.
With an infectious smile and upbeat personality, it’s hard to imagine the man they call ‘Big Dell’ ever struggling with his own mental health.
“I’ve gone through some dark places in my life,” Sailor said.
“I’ve been through some tough times through my career, but not just through playing sport. As a young kid I was adopted.
“I’ve had a few mates who have lost the battle with the black dog.”
That’s why he’s so passionate about mental health. For more than 10 years he’s travelled around Australia tell people it’s OK to say you’re not OK.
Sailor said it took courage to put your hand up and say you’re not OK.
“I really appreciate and respect the young people in this day and age putting up their hand and saying ‘listen, I’ve got a problem’,” he said.
“I was out at Wee Waa and Warialda recently. I was really proud to see the farmers are now putting up their hands. One of the farmers spoke so well about how he use to come home and not talk to his wife and kids.
“Mental health doesn’t discriminate – race, religion, colour. We’ve all been there.”
He said the stigma around mental health was starting to change and people were talking openly about their struggles.
“It always take a lot of courage to play football at any sort of level, but I reckon the black dog is one of the biggest ones you can try to tackle,” he said.
“Take a look at the transformation of [Brisbane Bronco’s captain] Darius Boyd – I was really proud of him, not just as a mate.
“[South Sydney Rabbitohs captain] Greg Inglis is the same thing. I’m so proud of Greg, who would have known what he was going through.
“Young people see Greg do that and now they know it’s OK to put up your hand.”
Sailors message to anyone doing it tough: “Just ask for help”.
“Tell your family and friends, you’ve just got to let them know and start that conversation,” he said.
“If you hit rock bottom you’ve always got someone you can talk to or confide in. Once you ask for help and start talking about it, that’s when you peel away the layers.”
And if someone does ask for your help, don’t judge, give them out support and understanding.
“Have the confidence to tell them it’s going to be OK and that they can get through this,” Sailor said.
“The more we talk about this the better it is for everybody.”
If you or someone you know is struggling, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.