The mental health messages True Blue Paul Langmack is sending out to junior Rugby League players across Sydney is about to go statewide.
The NSWRL’s ‘Changing Rooms’ program is so successful there is now extra funding available to take the face-to-face well-being initiative to regional areas.
Now into his third year, True Blue and Changing Rooms program manager Paul Langmack talks frankly with young players – aged from 11 through to 20 years – on the issues around mental health, suicide prevention, and bullying.
“I bring a qualified social worker with me and we talk together to the kids and answer their questions,” Langmack said.
“We talk about how serious it is at the moment with the number of young people committing suicide – only six weeks ago we had a young Rugby League player out in the bush.
“We just tell them some home truths. It is tough to speak up, but it’s weak to keep it within.”
Langmack, one of the toughest forwards who played for both Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Western Suburbs Magpies, four Origins for NSW and toured with the 1986 Kangaroos, has just finished speaking to 276 junior players from the Rouse Hill Rhinos Junior Rugby League Club in Sydney. He has now addressed 590 boys and girls in the past five weeks.
“Boys are worse than girls, because they don’t show their emotions like the girls do,” he said.
“But both need to reach out.
“I tell them if they’re attentive and ask questions in my sessions, then they’ll get a NSW training ball at the end of our meeting – it’s a great motivator to get them to listen.
“And I want them to hear the message and to act on it if they’re not coping.
“For a lot of the younger ones it’s bullying. I recently had to speak to an Under 9s team about bullying within their own club – hard to believe but there it was.
“Mental fitness is a huge problem. I ask everyone ‘You know what physical fitness means, so what is mental fitness?’ It’s about how to manage your emotions.
“It’s alright to wake up in the morning feeling tired and not wanting to go to school but just lay around; but if that’s happening for 10 days in a row, I encourage them to reach out to their parents, their friends, their coach, to their teachers and say ‘I’m not feeling well’.
“I tell them they’re weak if they don’t.”
A three-time Premiership winner with the Bulldogs (1984, 1985, 1988) the club has recently asked Langmack to come in and conduct the Changing Rooms program with all their junior boys and girls teams.