It was recognised that there was a need within the Geelong local community to increase youth health awareness in relation to drugs, alcohol and mental health.
In the beginning, the Read the play project was designed to increase the mental health literacy and help seeking behaviour in young people, from three local junior football and netball leagues in the Barwon region. This was to be achieved through the provision of a mental health literacy training program to key representatives within the clubs.
The specific aims of the project, for the young participants, were to:
- Increase knowledge about mental health
- Increase knowledge about local support services
- Increase confidence in ability to respond to people with mental health problems
- Increase confidence to assist people to access appropriate support
- Improve attitudes towards mental health problems
- Improve attitudes towards help seeking
The Club representatives, nominated as Player Wellbeing Officers (PWO), participated in a 3 day training session, which equipped them with mental health knowledge. They were encouraged to become a support for young people whom they were now able to identify as having, or potentially developing a mental health problem, and guiding them to appropriate sources of help. After evaluation of the program, the PWOs were further supported in their role with the development of a trivia quiz night which enabled them to introduce themselves to the players and also impart the much needed, mental health information.
Following a year of trialing, the final stage of development, saw the PWOs involved in a competitive games evening which facilitated both the introduction of the officer and a fun and friendly forum for the delivery of mental health messages. The program also recruited local mental health workers, who were the key deliverers of the evening, as well as a constant resource and support for the PWO and the respective football and netball clubs as a whole.
The Program has been very successful and is recognised as a major mental health initiative in the Geelong Region supported by the Geelong Football and Netball Leagues. The program is proudly endorsed by Patron, Frank Costa and Ambassadors Mark Blicavs, Geelong Cats and Tegan Caldwell, Melbourne Vixens.