AFTER battling his own demons in the past, former St George Illawarra star Dan Hunt admitted just talking about mental health made things easier.
Hunt, who played 150 NRL matches for the Dragons, was at Dubbo with Andrew Ryan to attend a Can We Talk mental health forum at the Dubbo RSL Memorial Club but the duo also took some time to run a clinic with local juniors at Caltex Park during the morning.
Twenty-nine-year-old Hunt was diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder in 2012 and is now an NRL State Of Mind ambassador.
"NRL is the platform to get the message across because I came out about my mental health struggles and guess the point is if I can come out and talk about it playing one of the toughest games in the world why can't someone else?" he said, before saying what it meant for him to open up about his own mental health.
"It was a bit of a relief and I think you can't help others unless you can help yourself so by me coming out and helping these kids and being a State of Mind ambassador it's helped me and my mental health journey too."
Suicide is the leading cause of death in people aged 15-44 and the Can We Talk forums have been designed specifically to increase discussion and support among families and regional communities on mental health.
With suicide being 66 per cent higher in regional areas, a major target of the forums was getting through to parents and families in order to help younger people and pass on practical advice.
Hunt and Ryan were involved at the forum while they ran their own clinic with the juniors on Monday, telling them about the importance of positive mental wellbeing.
Hunt said the fact the trip allowed them to speak to young children and also the wider community at the RSL forum meant everyone was getting access to the message.
"We are talking about the right things at the right time and in country areas as well because they don't get the access and reach that people get in the city," he said.
"There's that stigma of it's weak to speak or you've got to be a tough guy so it's our job to destigmatise it and promote some help-seeking strategies and educate people."
As well as Hunt and Ryan, the panel involved at Monday night's forum included Headspace psychologist Annie Hartley, NSW Police Superintendent Gelina Talbot and Nic Newling, a mental health campaigner who shared his own story.
With so many high profile people involved, Hunt said it was a truly worthy thing to be a part of.
"Even if we can have an impact on one or two people so they go and talk and get help then we're putting the right things in place," he said.
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