Twenty-one athletes from thirteen sports have been selected to be the inaugural Lifeline Community Custodians, a program with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) that will see athletes become advocates for mental health and positive community spirit.
Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games athletes from across the country will be involved in the program, jointly designed by the AIS and Lifeline Australia to reduce the stigma of mental health and promote the positive contributions athletes and sport can make to their communities.
Lifeline Australia CEO, Colin Seery, said the organisation was proud to partner with the AIS and thanked the Community Custodians, who join a national movement of more than 10,000 Lifeline volunteers and 1,000 employees.
“When these athletes talk in support of Lifeline, they will be helping to reduce stigma and shape a more compassionate society, one that focuses on bringing people together and reducing isolation,” Seery said. “They will be helping families to ensure their loved ones are kept safe.
“Last year, there were 3,128 lives lost to suicide in Australia, a nine percent increase on the year before and one life lost every three hours. Every life taken is a son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister lost for ever.
“Lifeline receives one million contacts every year to our national number – 13 11 14 and suicide prevention services. We are here because no person in Australia should have to face their darkest moments alone.”
Australian Opals women’s basketball captain Jenna O’Hea will lead the team of Community Custodians, having lost her uncle to suicide last year and then initiating a Lifeline round in the Women’s National Basketball League.
“My uncle was 46. People often tend to put on a brave face. You don’t know what they’re going through. So just in our family, from this we’re reaching out more and trying to have more open and honest conversations, which aren’t always easy.
“It is a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help and I think a lot of people are willing to help as long as you ask. I’m proud to be one of the inaugural Community Custodians and spread the valuable messages on behalf of Lifeline Australia, which is available for 24-7 support.”
Olympic paddler Jo Brigden-Jones works full-time as a paramedic alongside her sporting career. “I’ve wanted to be a paramedic since I was 10, long before I even picked up a paddle and dreamed of becoming an Olympian,” Brigden-Jones said.
“Being a paramedic has certainly been an eye-opener and exposed me to the number of people within the community who are seeking help with their mental health. Sometimes we’re first responders, but we’re often in direct contact too with Lifeline, who play such a valuable role.”