Breaking the stigma of mental illness is key: Hunt

Two men who had long careers in one of the toughest sporting arenas have been in Dubbo spreading the message that men should talk about their mental health.

Dan Hunt, who played 150 games for St George Illawarra between 2007 and 2014, and Darren Higgins, who played 91 games for St George, Cronulla and the Western Reds between 1988 and 1997, spoke at a charity bowls day at Sporties on Saturday.

Mr Hunt was diagnosed with bipolar in 2010 and Mr Higgins with depression in 2012 and both men said there was no shame in having mental health issues and encouraged people to be honest with themselves and others.

Sporties organised the day as a suicide prevention day, tying in with Mental Health Month in October, with all proceeds raised on the day going to headspace Dubbo.

Both men said they wanted to be part of the occasion to spread the word that it wasn’t weak to have a mental illness or taboo to talk about it.

Mr Higgins said he was planning to commit suicide before a friend recognised the signs and encouraged him to seek help.

“He saved my life, and I’m so grateful for it. I’ve got a second chance of life,” he said.

“I suffer depression and I’m not embarrassed to say that. I was medicated for a few years but now my medication is talking about it and it’s amazing how much it helps.

“I believe there are a lot of people who have similar stories but they are too embarrassed or too scared.

“It’s not something to be embarrassed about, it’s something to stand up and talk about.”

Mr Hunt runs Mental Health Movement, which aims to break down the stigma of mental illness and improve life for those suffering.

“I’ve been through my own mental health journey. For a while I suffered in silence but one of the best things I did was ask for help,” he said.

Mr Hunt said headspace was a fantastic organisation for young people to seek assistance but said it was important people of all ages felt comfortable to talk about their problems.